Child Advocate Program (CAP)
What a Child Advocate Is
In 1976, Superior Court Judge David Soukup of Seattle, WA., saw a recurring problem in his courtroom:
"In criminal and civil cases, even though there were always many different points of view, you walked out of the courthouse at the end of the day and you said, I've done my best; I can live with this decision," he explains.
"But when you're involved with a child and you're trying to decide what to do to facilitate that child's growth into a mature and happy adult, you don't feel like you have sufficient information to allow you to make the right decision. You can't walk away and leave them at the courthouse at 4 o'clock. You wonder: do I really know everything I should? Have I really been told all of the different things? Is this really right?"
To ensure he was getting all the facts and the long-term welfare of each child was being represented, the Seattle judge came up with an idea that would change America's judicial procedure and the lives of thousands of children: he obtained funding to recruit and train community volunteers to step into courtrooms on behalf of the children: the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers.
This unique concept was implemented in Seattle as a pilot program in January 1977. During that first year, the program provided 110 trained Child Advocate volunteers for 498 children in 376 dependency cases.
Child Advocates Across the Country
In 1978 the National Center of State Courts selected the Seattle program as the "best national example of citizen participation in the juvenile justice system." This recognition, along with a grant from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation of New York City (one of CASA's earliest and strongest supporters), resulted in the replication of the Seattle CASA program in courts across the country.
As child advocacy projects developed, each new local program director made an on-site visit to the original Seattle host program for observation and training. In 1982, the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association was formed to help support child advocacy programs emerging national presence. Child Advocate / Guardian ad Litem (GAL) programs now exist in all 50 states.
Child Advocate or Guardian Ad Litem (GAL)
A Child Advocate, also known as "CASA: Court Appointed Special Advocate" from our early days, is a volunteer child advocate appointed by the court in dependency cases. A GAL is a Guardian Ad Litem, also appointed in certain types of cases. Often, the terms are used interchangeably.
Child Advocates in Clallam County
In 1983 Clallam County started a Child Advocate Program (formally known as CASA). Merle Watson, a business man from Beaver, WA took the Seattle training and went to a National Meeting at his own expense to get our program up and running. When he left the Program in 1987 it had won the respect of the local agencies and the court.
During 2019, changes within the National Program prompted many Washington State programs to return to their roots and take ownership and recognition of our local programs and efforts underway in our home state. This resulted in renaming our program to better reflect our mission and we are now known as the Clallam County Child Advocates Program (CAP)! So while our name has changed, the people remain the same as does our goal of providing a volunteer Child Advocate for every dependent child.
Current Numbers & Needs
In 2017, the Clallam County Child Advocate Program had two Program Managers and 19 volunteers serving 220 youth in dependency. Case filings were up while volunteerism was at an all-time low. That fall, the program applied for and was awarded a 20-month, federal grant through the Department of Commerce to support Victims of Crime (VOCA), focused entirely on volunteer recruitment and support. The grant was wildly successful resulting in improved community awareness and the recruitment, training, and support of 55 new volunteers within 12 months. In 2020, the Child Advocate Program was again successful in seeking VOCA grant funding and support to keep recruitment efforts going, ever so important during the COVID-19 crisis.
Today, we have over 70 community volunteers and on average we have 200 children who are under the protection of the Court due to alleged abuse or neglect. The community volunteers are of all ages and walks of life.
Many more volunteers are currently needed to serve all of the dependent youth in the County. The only requirement to become a Child Advocate/GAL is a good, moral character and common sense.
Training is available for those interested in volunteer service. Independent study options exist for those with time limitations.
Please contact the CAP Office to pursue volunteer opportunities in your community!
In 2018-19, the Child Advocate Program (CAP) and local volunteers attended or participated in various events to gather support for youth in our community. Highlights include:
- 8 Core Training Events recruiting 55 new volunteers to represent 131 new kiddos in dependency
- "Friends of CASA Golf Tournament" to support training and gaps in direct services to youth
- "Rock 'n' Roll Bike Show" with Roughnecks Motorcycle Club Victim Support Group
- "Kicks for Kids" Shoe Drive (gathered over 200 pairs of shoes-one for each child in foster care in the County)
- Winter Coat Drive by Knights of Columbus
- 19 In-Service Events for Volunteer Support and retention including Book Club, Brown-bag Lunches, and regional trainings
- Various public appearances
(The Friends of Clallam County Child Advocates Facebook Page is a third party site not maintained by Clallam County)
View the Volunteer Application (PDF)