The CASA Movement
Judge David W. Soukup formed the first CASA program in Seattle, Washington. As he sat on the bench day after day it became clear to him that he needed more information about these abused and neglected children brought before him. The Department of Children’s Services caseworkers had as many as sixty cases assigned to them and they could not provide the court the information he needed.
Judge Soukup wanted to hear from someone who had each child’s best interests at heart, someone who cared enough to volunteer time to provide an independent voice for these children. Judge Soukup’s vision was to train community volunteers to fill this need and in 1977, his dream became a reality with CASA which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. Since then, CASA volunteers across the United States have been ensuring that abused and neglected children find a permanent and loving home as quickly as possible.
CASA OF THE HIGHLAND RIM
The History of CASA of the Highland Rim
In early 2015, a few members of the Dickson County Foster Care Review Board met with Juvenile Court Judge, Michael Meise, and his staff to discuss their concern regarding the needs of abused and neglected children and the possibility of creating a CASA program in Dickson County.
Judge Meise has been an educator with the Dickson County Board of Education and worked part-time as a Public Defender for the 23rd Judicial District. After giving it a lot of thought and consideration over a few months, Judge Meise realized the need for CASA in Dickson County. He met again with those Foster Care Review Board members and with staff from the TN CASA Association to determine how to move forward.
In July 2015, with the help of the TN CASA Association, Meagan Frazier Grosvenor, Emma Hall, Neal Trice, and other interested members of the community held a meeting to discuss the need for CASA in Dickson County. Another meeting was held a month later to continue to gather community input. A planning committee was established and assessed the need for CASA in Dickson County.
In September 2015, CASA of the Highland Rim began an official non-profit registered with the State of Tennessee and received its 501(c)3 designation from the IRS. A 15-member Board of Directors was created, which established by-laws and its mission, goals, and objectives to serve abused and neglected children in state custody in Dickson County.
By the beginning of March 2016, CASA of the Highland Rim hired its first part-time employee. CASA of the Highland Rim is a member of the National CASA Association and the TN CASA Association. In May of 2019, Stewart County began the process of becoming an expansion program of Dickson County. On September 16, 2019, the first staff person was hired part-time to work exclusively for Stewart County. Her name was Sydney Myers. By August of 2020, Stewart County was recognized as an expansion program of Dickson County by the National CASA/GAL Association.
In August of 2022, the Board of Directors voted to change the name of the organization to CASA of the Highland Rim. This was done to better reflect the geographic nature of the counties it served and to allow for expansion into additional counties.