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About CASA of Cook County

ABOUT CASA OF COOK COUNTY
FOSTER CARE SHOULD BE TEMPORARY — NOT A WAY OF LIFE
Since 1986, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Cook County has been training everyday people to stand up for children who have experienced abuse and neglect in an overwhelmed and extremely under-resourced foster care system. Without a helping hand from CASA Advocates, these children might fall through the cracks and never be given an opportunity to find a place to call home.
CASA of Cook County works to diminish the challenges faced by children in foster care by recruiting, training, and supervising community volunteers who advocate for the best interests of children in court and who strive to ensure that children leave the system to live in safe, permanent homes. Unlike caseworkers and other child welfare professionals, CASA volunteers handle only one or two cases at a time and are able to give each child the attention he/she needs and deserves.
CASA of Cook County was established in 1986 and has served more than
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CHILDREN
OUR MISSION

The mission of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Cook County is to advance foster care child advocacy for children in Cook County by ensuring that their needs are met and rights are protected; by transitioning out of foster care into permanent, safe, and loving homes as quickly as possible; and that youth aging out of foster care have the resources and support they need to live independently.

DIVERSITY, EQUITY, and INCLUSION STATEMENT

At CASA of Cook County we acknowledge that we work around and within a child welfare system steeped in structural racism. Black children, the only racial or ethnic group that is over-represented in Cook County foster care, make up only 25% of the Cook County population but more than 70% of the children in foster care. Once in foster care, Black children spend more time in the system and are less likely than children of other races to return to their parents or be adopted. This is a direct result of structural racism in every aspect of our society, which puts Black families at disproportionate risk of trauma, poverty, homelessness, and every form of family instability, at the same time that Black families are over-policed and over-monitored by social service systems.

HISTORY

CASA of Cook County was established in 1986, incorporated as an independent nonprofit agency in 2001, and is a as part of the member of the National CASA/GAL Association that is recognized and supported by the US Department of Justice and the Violence Against Women Act of Congress. CASA of Cook County is the largest of the 31 CASA programs in Illinois, the state which is last in the nation for achieving timely permanency, and has served more than 12,000 children in its 35-year history. CASA of Cook County is the only program of its kind in the county and has a unique position within the Cook County Juvenile Court, allowing the organization access to a court system that is traditionally closed to outside parties due to the confidential nature of the proceedings. Because of this relationship, CASA serves children and youth who are often unreachable by other organizations.

THE CASA STORY
In 1976, juvenile court judge David Soukup of Seattle, WA, saw a recurring problem in his courtroom. Though he was receiving information from social workers, lawyers, teachers and other professionals, their opinions and recommendations were limited in scope. Soukup was frustrated that he couldn’t see the whole picture of the child’s life, and thus couldn’t make a satisfying judgment for the child’s placement. He initiated a program of community volunteers who would be sworn in as officers of the court and would then be responsible for investigating all aspects of the child’s life and reporting their findings to the court. This one-on-one interaction would allow for a thorough, more complete picture of the child’s needs and help the judge make a better-informed decision. From that first program, CASA has become a national network of nearly 1,000 programs to recruit, train, and support volunteer advocates serving more than one third of the 600,000 children currently in foster care.