Leveraging community volunteers to advocate for abused, neglected children has always been at the heart of the Guardian ad Litem approach.
In 1977 in Seattle, WA, Judge David Soukup was dissatisfied with the same case plans and recommendations made for child after child. It was determined he could not rely on the state’s child protective agency system to provide him with all of the information needed to make decisions about the children in his courtroom. He believed that more individualized attention would produce better outcomes. He called for citizen volunteers who could be trained to assess cases objectively, be appointed as advocates for children, and provide comprehensive information to the court to aid decision-making, and so the King County Volunteer Guardian ad Litem was started. This started a movement that today consists of nearly 1,000 independently operated GAL/CASA programs in the United States.
In 1982 the National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) organization was created. By 1990 all of Florida’s judicial circuits had implemented a volunteer Guardian ad Litem Program and in 2004 the Statewide Guardian ad Litem office was created. Florida’s Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program is a member in good standing of the National CASA Association.
Today in Florida’s 20th Judicial Circuit (to include Lee, Charlotte, Collier, Hendry and Glades counties) we serve more than 1200 children annually through over 520 active volunteer child advocates.