Skip to main content

Georgia CASA celebrates 100% statewide coverage, with CASA Programs in all 159 counties

  • Share

July 27, 2023

Georgia CASA celebrates 100% statewide coverage, with CASA Programs in all 159 counties


On May 18, Georgia CASA celebrated 100% coverage of the state at an event with program leaders, partners, and donors. The 159 counties across the state of Georgia now have a CASA program available in their communities. Georgia CASA Executive Director, Jen King delivered remarks at the event to thank the many supporters, partners and advocates who helped on the journey to 159 counties covered.

“Georgia was the 46th state to start a CASA program and among the first to reach statewide coverage,” said King. “We are overjoyed that so many supporters were able to celebrate CASA’s statewide expansion milestone. It was a fabulous evening of community in which we paid tribute to the many people and groups who have supported this vision!”

Below is an excerpt of King’s delivered remarks and a timeline of Georgia’s road to 159 counties.

Thirty-five years ago, our founders, Kathie Gannon and Nicki Vaughn, brought the idea of CASA volunteer advocacy to Georgia. They knew that this “demonstration project” would be more appealing if they had influential community leaders on board. This brought in Karen Sibley, Roya Irvani, Solveig Harden, Ethel Ware Carter, Ruth Branch, Ann Barrett, Bernadette Hartfield, and Carolyn Dobbins, among others.  With a volunteer model in hand and a whole lot of determination, they traversed the state in search of judges who might open their courtrooms to volunteers, who would be trained and supported by a paid coordinator. The early Georgia CASA board and staff members were pioneers by all accounts!

Since 1991, Governors and the Georgia General Assembly have supported efforts to codify, strengthen, and expand CASA advocacy.  We have had several champions under the Gold Dome – many who check in on our progress and others who, sadly, are no longer with us, but always knew the part they played. Our state investment would not be what it is today without our own CASA champions, including Dianne Scoggins, board member and long-time CASA director, and Wendi Clifton, our 20+ year legislative advisor and friend to all at the state Capitol, along with her associate Ted Burdo. From the first state allocation of $150,000 to over $4.5 million, we’ve come a long way.

There are two crucial elements of statewide expansion: judicial engagement and community leadership. There has always been a dedicated Georgia CASA position that led and nurtured both of these activities. The Program Development Director was often the first CASA ambassador sent in to meet with judges to both test the waters and paint a picture for how first-hand, relevant, and objective information, provided by volunteers, improve outcomes for children.

Without Judge John Worcester, Julia Neighbors, Ann Barrett, Allyson Anderson, and Angela Tyner – we wouldn’t be in 159 counties.

Last year, it was a friendly call and casual inquiry from former Chief Justice David Nahmias, a former CASA volunteer himself, that resulted in the final court signing on. How fitting that 35 years ago, the then-Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia administered the oath to the first class of CASA volunteers!

For the last 19 years, Angela Tyner has been our judicial liaison and has worked tirelessly to strengthen the reputation and credibility of CASA among the legal community. She has been to every court in Georgia, can tell you about almost every juvenile court judge, and is relentless in her pursuit of quality legal representation and CASA advocacy.  Angela says that she got the easy part, thanks to all of you.

We are often asked how and why the structure of the CASA network in Georgia works so well, including our state-level collaborations, high affiliation across the network, tenured staff, and more.  We share credit with our funding partners, supporters, and donors.

  • The Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation Board of Trustees and leadership has opened countless opportunities and so many doors for Georgia CASA and the CASA network. We are a proud core partner.
  • The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council makes significant investments in the CASA network on a massive scale – its partnership and commitment to child advocacy are evident in every part of the state.
  • DHS and Care Solutions support the CASA network by promoting timely permanency and quality CASA advocacy. 
  • The Georgia Bar Foundation provided startup funds in the peak development years. 
  • The Court Improvement Program invests in CASA advocacy, training, and data collection.  
  • Hundreds of individual donors, sponsors, and supporters, including the women who have chaired our signature special event, known today as CASA on the Catwalk 
  • The Kappa Alpha Theta Atlanta Alumnae fraternity has led many successful fundraising and awareness events, in addition to their individual board service and all-around embrace of the CASA mission. 
  • The Junior League of Atlanta is also a partner, friend, and home base for Georgia CASA and our board meetings.
  • National CASA has recognized and supported our efforts all along the way. We continue to be a proud member and leader in the ever-growing national network.  

It is this mix of support that makes Georgia CASA stand out among its peers.

We are so fortunate to have state board members who appreciate and recognize the unique role that Georgia CASA plays in the larger advocacy ecosystem. Thank you for being our ambassadors, advisors, recruiters, and friends. Our board members know how special this day is for Georgia CASA and can likely pinpoint the year they started on the red-shaded map!

Duaine Hathaway, who led the organization for 18 years during some of the most difficult economic, social, and political times, always credited himself with putting the right people in place. He carries so much pride for the work and progress we have made. When Duaine retired in 2018, he told us he was coming back to be the grand marshal of the 159 party / parade. (Note the red sash in the forthcoming pictures!)

There is so much compassion and concern on the Georgia CASA team for each other, for the CASA network, and for children and families. Combined, the 12 of us have 187 years of CASA work history! We hope to leave as much of an impact on the CASA network as each one of our predecessors. Thank you to all of the current and former Georgia CASA team members who give their all for the good of the network and for our families who allow us to show up every day, no matter where that might be in Georgia. 

We have great partners who recognize the strength and importance that come from a mobilized group of trained community volunteers. We thank you for allowing us to seek collaborative solutions, share successes and powerful stories of hope, and build a strong foundation for families in Georgia.  

For our juvenile judges who might first describe their CASA support as acquiescing to having volunteers in the courtroom, thank you for 35 years of open invitations into your courtrooms. We strive to maintain your trust every day and pledge to continue to improve the system for all families. 

The bulk of the weight of the CASA mission is carried by our CASA directors, staff, and volunteers. The first CASA directors, staff members, and volunteers in a community become the face of CASA, paving the way for every volunteer and staff person who comes after – your tenacity is what got us here! The now 46 CASA directors have been the most vocal cheerleaders and key community builders supporting expansion and statewide coverage. You have given us the tools for success. Thank you for your pride in this network and support of one another.  

Together, we have advocated for over 200,000 children and supported more than 47,000 volunteers! 

We come together to celebrate that no matter a child’s zip code or county of origin, they are just as likely to have a trusted adult advocate, and one day soon we hope every child will. This possibility is now within reach. Thank you for believing in the vision that together, in community, all children will have the opportunity to thrive.