Who We Are

Mission & History

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STRATEGIC PLAN: 2016 - 2019

In 1977, a Seattle juvenile court judge was concerned that making drastic decisions with insufficient information conceived the idea of citizen volunteers speaking up for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the courtroom. That first CASA program has grown a network of more than 951 CASA and guardian ad litem programs that are recruiting, training and supporting volunteers in 49 states and the District of Columbia.  

In 1987, Judge Bradnor Riggs, presiding judge over Juvenile Court in Winnebago County met with the Junior League of Rockford to bring CASA to the children of Winnebago County.  Today, 29 years later, CASA continues to support and advocate for children brought to the attention of the Abuse and Neglect Court Judges.


Winnebago County CASA is a nonprofit, volunteer organization that advocates for the best interests of children within the Juvenile Abuse and Neglect Court system. Its existence is based on the belief that every child has the right to thrive in a safe and permanent home.


Integrity - Adaptability - Financial Stewardship - Volunteerism - Professional Growth - Interagency Collaboration - Inclusion


Excellence in Advocacy, including -

           •Responsiveness to Children's Needs - 

             Compassion - Stability + Security - Accuracy - Objectivity - Confidentiality


Winnebago County CASA's goal is for every child in need of a CASA to have one.

In order to support this goal, we need to grow the number of advocates at a rate of 25 ACTIVE CASAs per year.

That is, in collaboration with Winnebago County and the Juvenile Court of the 17th Judicial Circuit, Winnebago County CASA will strategically grow to be able to serve 100% of children who need a voice.

We will accomplish this by:

  • Setting a high standard of excellence in child advocacy;
  • Providing qualified support staff to train new Advocates, support existing Advocates, and manage case loads.
  • Keeping pace with technology to ensure free-flow of secure information; and
  • Promoting collaboration among stakeholders to grow the program and better serve the children.


  • 1977 – Judge David Soukup, Seattle, “Tired of making decisions that could affect the rest of a child’s life with only a few minutes and limited information.”
  • 1982 – National CASA Association forms.
  • 1986 – Judge Bradner Riggs, having heard about the Seattle program and believing it would be beneficial for Winnebago County Juvenile Abuse/Neglect Court, approaches Junior League.
  • 1987 – First cases assigned.
  • 1992 – Roseann Cannariato becomes Executive Director.
  • 2013 – Taryn Marko becomes Executive Director.
  • 1200 plus cases currently being served by Winnebago County Juvenile Abuse/Neglect Court.
  • According to Judge Green, ~75% of those cases would benefit from a CASA being assigned
  • With the current number of available advocates and staff, Winnebago County CASA is capable of serving ~325 cases


  1.  Grow, adapt, and fund the program to serve 100% of abused and neglected children who need an Advocate in Winnebago County 
    1. Provide  qualified support staff to train new Advocates and provide continuing education
    2. Add staff needed to support projected advocate growth.
  2. Set a high standard of excellence in child advocacy
    1. Provide a volunteer training recruitment and retention plan that supports each Advocate's success with learning opportunities and evaluation points.
    2. Review and update diversity plan to increase Advocate and Board representation.
    3. Explore and implement new Advocate recruitment and retention strategies.
  3. Promote collaboration among stakeholders to grow the program.    
    1. Improve program knowledge and understanding among stakeholders.

    2. Improve communication among Board, Staff and Advocates.

    3. Organize Board to implement Strategic Plan.

  4.  Build Program Awareness and Financial Support in Winnebago County

             ​ 1. Review, revise and implement marketing plan.​ 

              2. Develop and strengthen community relationships.

             3. Increase funding to adequately fund existing and future program.


*Stakeholders include Winnebago County CASA staff, board members, and advocates; Winnebago County; Winnebago County Juvenile Court personnel; social service agencies; Rockford and surrounding community residents; other individuals and organizations that support our efforts.

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