David W. Soukup was a judge in Seattle when he was faced with an unnerving decision. A 3-year-old girl had been taken to a city hospital with injuries that a doctor found consistent with abuse. In court, the mother insisted her daughter had merely fallen off a swing — and anyway, she said, her boyfriend had moved out and wasn’t coming back.
Judge Soukup was torn over whether to remove the child from the only family she had known. If he sent her to foster care with strangers, would she feel abandoned and traumatized? If he returned her to her mother, would she be in physical danger?
He had decided similar cases before, and they had kept him awake at night. “It was terrifying to me to make decisions about kids when I didn’t have anybody there that was only advocating for the child,” he said in a 2018 interview.
In that moment came a flash of inspiration: Why not recruit community volunteers to represent a child’s best interests in hearings about guardianship?
In 1976, Judge Soukup founded what became Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, now a prominent national organization, active in 49 states and Washington, D.C., which represents the interests in court of nearly 250,000 abused or neglected children, most of them in foster care.
Judge Soukup died on Dec. 16 at a hospital in Silverdale, Wash., near his home in the Seattle area, his son Dan said. He was 90.
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