FAMILY COURT’S COURT APPOINTED SPECIAL ADVOCATE PROGRAM CELEBRATES 25 YEARS OF SERVICE
In April 1981, Family Court of the State of Delaware, in collaboration with the Junior League of Wilmington and the National Council of Jewish Women (Wilmington Chapter), started a pilot program in New Castle County to address the needs of Delaware’s abused and neglected children who appeared in the Court unrepresented. The pilot program originally was called the “Guardian ad Litem” program, and 25 volunteers represented the abused, neglected and dependent children appearing before the Court. Today, the program not only represents the abused and neglected children but assists parents in private custody cases and now is called the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program or CASA. The CASA volunteers have a passion for working with children and the children’s families. When determining whether to return a child back to his or her family or to move the child to foster care or an adoptive home, the Family Court Judges depend on the CASAs for gathering data and making recommendations.
Since Loretta Deshields became the Statewide Director of the CASA program in 2005, over 500 children have been served. There is a staff of 10 coordinators (five in New Castle County, two in Kent County, two in Sussex County, and one who divides her time in Kent and Sussex Counties), and one administrative assistant. In addition, there are six attorneys and 10 Family Court Judges who participate in the CASA program on a regular basis.
The program continues to grow with 30 new CASA Volunteers trained and sworn in since August 2005, and has increased diversity of its staff and volunteers, allowing it to maintain its prestigious position in the membership of the National Court Appointed Special Advocates. This brings the total number of CASA volunteers to 200.
This year, CASA volunteer Thomas Duffy Sr. was the recipient of the Gannett Foundation’s Jefferson Award. This award is presented annually to an individual who has made a remarkable positive difference in society.