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Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of New Hampshire recruits, trains and supervises volunteers to serve as advocates for abused and neglected children in the New Hampshire court system. As part of the national nonprofit organization National CASA (NCASAA), we envision a world in which all children are safe, nurtured and living in permanent homes. CASA of NH strives to protect the rights of our state’s most vulnerable children to live, learn and grow in the embrace of a loving family.
Our History. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) originated around the belief that all children must be valued, protected, and defended.
In 1974, Congress enacted legislation that required the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL or “guardian of the case”) to promote and protect the best interests of children in cases of abuse and neglect. While the legislation did not specify that GALs must be attorneys, they were the likely and typical appointees. It soon became clear, however, that legal and social work professionals did not have sufficient resources to effectively advocate for these children.
In 1977, a Seattle judge recognized this deficit and began using citizen volunteers to serve as GALs. His premise was that the child welfare and juvenile justice systems do not want children further damaged, but lack the resources and singleness of agenda to focus adequate energy on the child, alone. Furthermore, he believed that there are capable and caring citizens from every walk of life who genuinely want to help hurting children if they only had opportunity and a bonafide means to do so. CASA provided just such a vehicle and has now advocated for over one million children.
Ten years after its inception on a national level, Marcia “Marty” Sink of Manchester, New Hampshire recognized a similar need in her own state. Inspired and challenged by her experience as a foster parent, Marty began a pilot program. Founding members orchestrated a comprehensive, effective, and accountable method of screening, training and supervision by experienced staff professionals. As a result, CASA could provide everything needed for a truly unique volunteer opportunity that allowed ordinary people to break through the typically closed environment of the courtroom.
Initially, many members of the judicial system believed that an organization relying on non-attorney, community volunteers to perform in the emotionally charged and legally complex world of family law would be ineffective. In 1989, however, CASA was incorporated as a private 501(c)(3) organization with ten volunteers in two courts, and the work began.
As a result of a focused mission and consistently well-managed cases by trained volunteers and staff, the walls were slowly broken down. Court by court, judges began to allow CASA entrance while word spread that unpaid Guardians ad Litem could do a respectable, even admirable, job defending the best interests of vulnerable children. Now, state judges have come to rely on CASA/GALs as the voice of reason in a confusing and complex legal system.
CASA of New Hampshire still carries the noble vision of providing an advocate for every abused and neglected child in the New Hampshire courts. Through its corps of conscientious and compassionate board members, committee personnel, volunteers and staff, CASA has grown to establish itself as a formidable player in the state’s child welfare system in protecting children.