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The passing of Judge David W. Soukup, founder of the court-appointed special advocate/volunteer guardian ad litem (CASA/GAL) movement

From National Casa:

We are deeply saddened to share with you that Judge David W. Soukup, the founder of the court-appointed special advocate/volunteer guardian ad litem (CASA/GAL) movement, has passed away.

Judge Soukup was a giant of a man in the CASA/GAL network and around court and child welfare innovation. When he started the first CASA program in King County (Seattle), Washington in 1977, the number of children in foster care topped half a million nationally and a new phrase, foster care drift, became a way to describe the increasingly long time many children spent in foster care.

Concerned over making decisions about abused and neglected children’s lives without sufficient information, Judge Soukup conceived the idea of using carefully screened and trained community volunteers to speak for the best interests of children in court. In 1977, he created a legacy that continues to flourish today throughout the country and with the dedicated efforts of almost 100,000 volunteers, serving nearly a quarter of a million children annually.

Over the years, when talking about conceiving the vision for the CASA program, Judge Soukup shared, “While sitting at juvenile court, I never got a night’s sleep without waking to wonder if at least one decision I made that day had been the best for a child. It struck me that it might be possible to recruit and train volunteers to investigate a child’s case so they could provide a voice for the child in those proceedings, proceedings which could affect their whole lives.

I had my bailiff call four or five people in the community who might be resources in recruiting volunteers to ask if they would meet for a brown bag lunch at juvenile court to discuss the idea. There were 50 people in the room when I walked in for that lunch. I thought, ‘This idea is going to work.’ It has. Tens of thousands of people speaking up for hundreds of thousands of children have proven that it does.

After I retired from the bench, I became a volunteer. It was an extraordinary experience. Both the hardest—and the best—thing I’ve ever done.”

For this incredible movement, and the work done day-in and day-out through state organizations and local programs, we owe a debt of great gratitude to Judge Soukup. His legacy is alive and well through the work of our network of over 900 CASA/GAL state organizations and local programs in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Our collective commitment to children and youth is stronger than ever. The world is immeasurably better because of Judge Soukup.

We celebrate the life of Judge Soukup and are extraordinarily grateful for his vision, leadership, and remarkable support of the CASA/GAL mission at the local, state and national levels for over 40 years. We look forward to honoring Judge Soukup’s incredible work and legacy.

Our deepest sympathies go out to Judge Soukup’s family and all who were fortunate to cross paths with him in life.

You can find The Seattle Times obituary for Judge Soukup here:

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