In late 2023 and early 2024 we lost two members of the CASA family who had an indelible impact on Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)/Prince George’s County: Judge David Soukup, the founder of the CASA program, and Florence “Betsy” Burian, the founding Executive Director of the program in our jurisdiction. We are so grateful to these two individuals for the role they each played in building the foundation upon which we work every day to make a difference in the lives of children and youth in foster care.
Judge David W. Soukup, the founder of the court-appointed special advocate/volunteer guardian ad litem (CASA/GAL) movement, was a giant of a man in the CASA/GAL network and around court and child welfare innovation. When he started the first CASA program in King County (Seattle), Washington in 1977, the number of children in foster care topped half a million nationally and a new phrase, “foster care drift”, became a way to describe the increasingly long time many children spent in foster care.
Concerned over making decisions about abused and neglected children’s lives without sufficient information, Judge Soukup conceived the idea of using carefully screened and trained community volunteers to speak for the best interests of children in court. In 1977, he created a legacy that continues to flourish today throughout the country and with the dedicated efforts of almost 100,000 volunteers, serving nearly a quarter of a million children annually. Click here to read more about Judge Soukup and here to watch a video of him describing how he came to begin the first CASA program.
Florence E. “Betsy” Burian was the founding Executive Director of CASA/Prince George’s County when it was initially incorporated in 1992. Along with a team of collaborative stakeholders, Betsy, oversaw the initial founding and incorporation of CASA in Prince George’s County and returned to champion the mission when we began full operations in 2001. She continued to be a supporter and ambassador for CASA throughout her life and we thank her for her dedication to making a difference in the lives of children. A special thanks to her family for their support of CASA/Prince George’s County to honor her legacy. Click here to read more about Betsy’s life and legacy.