What is CASA?
Superior Court judges appoint specially trained volunteers to speak up for abused and neglected children. Called “Court Appointed Special Advocates” (CASAs), they are also known as “guardians ad litem” (GALs).
CASAs serve as the “eyes and ears” of the court. They are independent of the child’s parents and independent of the state’s child protection and child welfare system.
CASAs investigate a child’s case and makes recommendations to the court. They monitor ongoing cases and facilitate communication and collaboration amongst the people and agencies involved with the child and the child’s family. Throughout the case, they advocate for the child’s best interests.
Our mission is to provide trained independent volunteers who promote and advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children within the justice system of Kittitas County.
Our vision is a community that is aware of and committed to the efforts of Court Advocates to secure safe, permanent, and loving homes for abused and neglected children in Kittitas County.
The CASA program began in 1977 in King County Superior Court located in Seattle, Washington, under the leadership of Presiding Judge David Soukup. By 1999, the CASA program had expanded across the United States. A national CASA association, headquartered in Seattle, provides support for its member programs throughout the country.
Kittitas County’s CASA program began in 1985 under the leadership of Kittitas County Superior Court Judge JoAnne Alumbaugh.
In many counties, the CASA program is a part of the county’s juvenile court. Kittitas County’s CASA program is truly independent of the court, being managed and administered by an independent not-for-profit agency — Court Advocates for Children for Kittitas County, located in Ellensburg.
Meet the Team
“It takes a whole village to raise a child.” – Igbo and Yoruba (Nigeria) Proverb
We have an amazing team of dedicated community members to serve as staff, board members and volunteers.
Sandra Bankston has devoted her professional life to Court Advocates since 2009 and has been a crucial member of the CASA team; serving as both Deputy Director and Volunteer Coordinator prior to accepting the role of Executive Director . Sandra has a deep knowledge of the best practices in actively advocating for the abused and neglected children of Kittitas County and is an effective leader and collaborator. She is committed to building upon our proud legacy of providing an advocate for every abused and neglected child referred to our program and working to ensure that our volunteers are empowered to continue their advocacy.
Her extensive experience managing people, processes, and programs comes from over a decade managing a fast past medical sales company in Seattle, Washington. Ms. Bankston is passionate and dedicated to family and children as seen in the family she has created with her husband and four daughters. When not in court, at the office, or training new volunteers Ms. Bankston is chasing her ten grandchildren.
Communications & Development Coordinator
Sarad Read serves Court Advocates as Communications and Development Coordinator responsible for communication, promotion, and administration of all development activities of Court Advocates for Children, including individual giving, corporate and foundation support, fundraising events, human resources, financial planning, and grants.
With a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Concordia University and a Bachelor of Liberal Arts from Washington State University coupled with over 18 years of administration, marketing, and project management experience Sarah is an excellent addition to the team.
When not found behind the computer or busily planning a fundraising event Sarah can be found enjoying a glass of wine with friends or relaxing at home with her husband and two daughters. Sarah enjoys a really good book, a glass of wine, and a hot summer day near the water.
Kendra is a recent master’s graduate from Central Washington University in Family and Child Life. Before accepting the position of Advocate Coordinator, she worked as a graduate teaching assistant at Central Washington University teaching multiple courses in Family and Child life, she also served as an intern at DCYF and in our office.
Kendra is responsible for developing, coordinating, and conducting the training program and supervising volunteer advocates working with abused and neglected children. She will also be responsible for recruiting volunteer advocates.
Kendra enjoys spending time with her family, fishing, camping, putting puzzles together and playing with her cat, Arlo.
Advocate Coordinator and Staff GAL
A graduate of Central Washington University with a Masters of Arts in History and a registered nurse Jamie serves Court Advocates as Advocate Coordinator and Staff GAL. With the combination of a Master’s degree, experience in project management, and an uncanny ability to get tasks done, Jamie is an integral part of the team.
Jamie Samuelson is responsible for developing, coordinating, and conducting the training program and supervising volunteer advocates working with abused and neglected children. In addition, Jamie will oversees case management as it relates to the volunteers, national reports, and archiving.
When Jamie is not in the office or courtroom she can be found on or very near the river with her husband and two sons as she is an avid fly-fisherwoman and camping enthusiast.
A great strength of the CASA program is its volunteers! Court Advocates for Children, the CASA program in Kittitas County, seeks volunteers from all cultures; professions or occupations; racial, ethnic and educational backgrounds age twenty-one or older. WE NEED YOU to make a difference in the lives of children in Kittitas County.