Court Appointed Special Advocates

Court Appointed Special Advocates

Who We Are

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Memphis & Shelby County trains and supports community volunteers who advocate for abused and neglected children in the Juvenile Court system.


Prior to being appointed to a case by the Juvenile Court Judge or Magistrate, the volunteer completes a 32 hour specialized pre-service training program. Once assigned a case, the volunteer begins getting to know the child and investigating everything to do with the child’s life. With the guidance of a staff Advocacy Coordinator, the volunteer interviews and gathers information from the child, family members, neighbors, teachers, social workers and other professionals who may have knowledge about the child. Based on this investigation, the volunteer prepares a report of their observations and recommendations regarding the child’s best interests which they then present in court to a Magistrate with the assistance of their Advocacy Coordinator. Approximately 95% of CASA volunteer’s permanency recommendations are accepted by the Court and included in its final order.

Our History

In 1976, the presiding Judge of King County Superior Court in Seattle, Washington, began to look for alternative ways to make sure a child’s best interests would be consistently presented to the Court. He decided to use trained community volunteers who would be asked to make a commitment to advocate for the child’s best interests in Court – to be the child’s voice. Believing that such a program would greatly benefit the Memphis and Shelby County Juvenile Court, the late Judge Kenneth A. Turner established the Memphis CASA program. Since its founding in 1986, CASA has served more than 16,000 children. 

The Need 

According to the Memphis & Shelby County Juvenile Court 2010 Annual Report, more than 3,600 children were referred to the Court due to allegations of dependency, abuse and neglect. Approximately 860 of those children were committed into the custody of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services and placed in a foster home, group home or inpatient facility. The child welfare system and the courts, while made up of caring and dedicated individuals, are completely overburdened and underfunded. As we look at the need, the statistics can seem overwhelming, but each one represents a child. CASA’s mission is to be the voice for each child.  

For more volunteer information, please email Rebecca Lesley-Paulk, or contact her at 901-405-8422.

Staff Contacts

Daphni Ishak, BA

CASA Program Director

Rebecca Lesley-Paulk

CASA Volunteer Recruitment and Training

Steve Moorman, BS

CASA Advocacy Coordinator

Our Partners