Court Appointed Special Advocates: Becoming the “Chance” for Louisiana’s Youth

By Judge (Ret.) Kathleen Stewart Richey

Lawyers understand the anxiety associated with going to court. Imagine being 7 years old, removed from your home by a child welfare worker and going to court alone! You are taken to a building you have never been in, where there are a lot of adults in suits, all seeming to be in a hurry and using words you don’t understand. Then you are led into the courtroom where another adult, dressed in black, is sitting at a desk that is higher than everyone else and this is the person who will decide if you can go home.

It can be overwhelming. About 6,000 Louisiana children are in this situation each year. Judges understand the importance of the decisions they are making. The child’s safety, and sometimes their lives, depends on the soundness of the court’s decision. The child and his or her family will be impacted for generations. Judges worry that they are not receiving all the information needed for a sound decision. That very concern is what led Judge David Soukup to create CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) in Seattle
in 1977. In 1985, the first CASA program in Louisiana began in New Orleans. Today, there are 17 local CASA programs serving 41 of 42 Judicial Districts in the state.

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Louisiana Bar Journal August / September 2022

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