Helping abused children in the Chicago area. The CASA of Cook county story

mother and child_Helping abused children in the Chicago_charity_CASA of Cook county_Yosef Meystel

Image courtesy of Brian Wolfe at

It is sad that there are charities out there that have to help children that have been abused, there shouldn’t be any child abuse in any part of the world and it is a sad thing to even write about it, even though it is about an institution that is helping these children overcome this cruel adversity. Yoseif Meystel, as the writer of this article, truly feels that it is very sad that even someone thinks about verbally and physically abusing a child, but it is the cruel reality. Figures for this type of abuse are high and in many countries in the world it happens almost every day. Fortunately, there are some people and institutions that want to help and are doing it so in a correct way. Yoseif took the time to research an amazing charity that addresses this cruel abuse in the Chicago area and helps children get the right legal counselling for their problem.

The charity´s name is CASA of Cook County which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates for children. The word CASA also mean house in Spanish and it fits perfectly in the approach this charity has. Let’s take a look at what this charity is all about and maybe start donating for the cause.

It all started back in 1976, when juvenile court judge David Soukup of Seattle, WA, saw a common problem in his courtroom. He knew he was receiving accurate information on the cases that had to do with kids, but felt that it was not enough. He had social workers, lawyers, teachers and other professionals working for him and doing everything in reach. But the judge just felt that their opinions and recommendations were limited in scope. Soukup was frustrated that he couldn’t see the whole picture of the child’s life, and thus couldn’t make a satisfying judgment for the child’s placement.

With this necessity in mind, Judge David started a program that included community volunteers that would act as sworn officers of the court and would then be responsible for investigating all aspects of the child’s life and reporting their findings to the court. This one-on-one interaction would give the judge and the jury a wider scope on the information and the situation that the child has so they can take a more informed decision.

After 10 years, in 1986, CASA of Cook County was established as a part of Illinois old Action for Children movement making it a big step towards a more responsible and well established charity. In 2001, CASA of Cook County became an independent not-for-profit organization and has been operating ever since under this business model.

They have had a clear objective since day one: to train everyday people to stand up for children who have experienced abuse and neglect in an overwhelmed and extremely under-resourced foster care system. They believe that they are helping children not fall into worlds that will only bring harm and danger. CASA is giving these children a second opportunity at life and at the same time helping the judge reach the best decision for the child and the people around him or her.

CASA of Cook County has 2 special focus programs:  MARK and CITY. MARK stands for Medically At Risk Kids and it focuses on children who have special needs that come from illnesses.  In this case, CASA advocates are assigned to medically fragile children involved with the Child Protection Division of Juvenile Court to ensure that each child receives the appropriate medical care they require and to reduce the risk of falling into abusive circumstances again; and CITY, which stands for Creating Independent Transitions for Youth. This initiative focuses on the specialized needs of older youth who are now ready to leave the foster care system and start a life of their own with their own goals and risks. In this case young adults are very vulnerable and need more guidance than any other person in the foster care system.  Without the proper support of a caring adult to guide them in the necessary life skills and experiences, these older foster youth will see their lives interrupted by things that may be hard to handle and will face a lot of uncertainty.  CITY advocates work one-on-one with youth age 16 and older to make them feel that they can also be part of a productive community and that they really matter to the world out there. The advocates provide guidance in necessary financial, educational and life skills so the young adults in the CITY program can begin to understand how to advocate for later in life.

Again, these types of charities shouldn’t even exist because child abuse and a failing foster care system should not exist either. Fortunately there are charities that also address these types of problems and support children when they most need it. Find out more about charities in Chicago in this article


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