Our Goal And Mission
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of New Hampshire strives to protect the rights of our state’s most vulnerable children to live, learn and grow in the embrace of a loving family. As part of the national nonprofit organization CASA for Children, our trained volunteer advocates speak for the best interests of abused and neglected children who’ve come to the attention of New Hampshire’s family court system through no fault of their own.
How it Began
In 1974, Congress enacted legislation that required the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem to promote and protect the best interests of abused and neglected children. It soon became clear that legal and social work professionals who typically volunteered did not have sufficient training or resources to effectively advocate for these children.
A Judge′s Vision
In 1977, a Seattle judge recognized this deficit and began using citizen volunteers to serve as GALs. He believed that there are capable and caring citizens from every walk of life who genuinely want to help children, but lack the means to do so. That first program has grown to nearly 1,000 CASA/GAL programs that recruit, train and support volunteers in 49 states and the District of Columbia.
New Hampshire′s Beginnings
In 1987, Marcia “Marty” Sink of Manchester recognized a similar need in New Hampshire. Inspired and challenged by her own experiences as a foster parent, Marty began a work on a pilot program. Initially, many members of the judicial system believed that an organization relying on non-attorney volunteers to perform in the emotionally-charged and legally-complex world of family law would be ineffective.
1989 - The first courts
In 1989, CASA was incorporated as a private 501(c)(3) organization with 10 volunteers in two courts. With a focused mission and consistently well-managed cases by trained advocates and staff, the walls slowly came down. Court by court, judges began to allow CASA entrance as word spread that unpaid GALs could do an admirable job defending the best interests of vulnerable children.
2009 - A turning point
New Hampshire judges have come to rely on CASA advocates as the voice of reason in a confusing and complex legal system. State law enacted in 2009, mandates that NH judges contact CASA before paid GALs, recognizing the care and dedication CASA advocates give to their cases and the significant savings to the state by using a professional, highly-trained volunteer organization for this work.
Today and Going Forward
We still carry the vision of providing an advocate for every abused and neglected child in our courts. With more than 430 volunteers, CASA is able to accept 80-85 percent of the children in need, but more advocates are always needed. With 550-600 advocates we believe CASA could effectively provide a voice for 100 percent of the state’s children.