ELIZABETH, NJ - Twenty-five volunteers -- including Jim Moss and Meredith Nolen of Summit -- have been sworn in by Superior Court Judge Richard Wischusen to advocate for Union County youth removed from home due to abuse, neglect or abandonment and placed in foster homes or residential facilities.

After completion of training with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Union County and taking their oath, the new CASA volunteers — or advocates — attended three hours of family court hearings to observe other CASA volunteers in action, and then were matched to their assigned foster youth or sibling set.

The advocates range from age 23 to 74, and are parents, nonparents and grandparents; high school graduates to PhDs; full-time, part-time and retired professionals in such fields as education, law, medicine, nonprofit and business; and homemakers. Some had experience with foster care or adoption, as well as domestic violence or substance abuse within family or friends. Most, however, had no prior knowledge of the foster system.

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CASA volunteers are extra eyes and ears for family law judges. With court-ordered access to foster parents, doctors, caseworkers, therapists and teachers, they incorporate findings into court reports and work to ensure each youth’s needs are met and best interests protected. They are a constant during chaos. There are approximately 500 Union County youth in foster care; more than 200 still await a CASA volunteer. Is that you? Reach Courtney at 908-293-8136 or cgreen@casaofunioncounty.org for details on the next training opportunity.

In addition to Moss and Nolen, thee CASA volunteers include: Steve Polychronopoulos of Berkeley Heights; Dana Panavalli of Cliffside Park; Shelley Grobe, Corey Sherlock and Susan Shaw of Cranford; Brittany Gonzalez and Flor Maria Mendez of Elizabeth; Janice Pettiford of Fanwood; Arlene Sumner of Linden; Adejoke Adedokum and Belinda McFarland of Newark; Louise Connelly of Roselle; Coleen Coffey and Margaret Van Heek of Scotch Plains; Laura Nanda of Spring Lake; James Ancharski, Karen Gorman, Su Huskey, Zoe Kimble, Suzanne LaForge and Michele Roosevelt of Westfield; Fernanda Olivo of West Orange and Diane Zinkowicz of Union.