ELIZABETH, NJ - Community members from Bridgewater, Cranford, Elizabeth, Fanwood, Linden, North Bergen, Scotch Plains and Summit recently completed child advocacy training in order to serve as extra eyes and ears for family law judges hearing cases involving Union County’s abused, neglected or abandoned children removed from home and placed in foster care. The volunteers ranging from 25 to 62 years old were officially sworn in on Friday as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) by Union County Superior Court Judge James Hely.
Family, friends, CASA staff and board members looked on as Judge Hely administered oaths to the new advocates:
- James Anglin of Fanwood
- Tiffany Parchment of Elizabeth
- Laurie Rando of Scotch Plains
- September Patterson of North Bergen
- Jaime Castro of Bridgewater
- Melinda Giffen Frater of Summit
- Kennisha Qualls of Linden
- Jim Van Horn of Cranford
Each also received a commemorative pin and certificate. Each was matched to their foster youth or sibling set during a celebratory luncheon following the ceremony.
According to CASA staff, the group of volunteers brings diverse experiences, including a former foster youth, former teen mom, single parent, immigrant, soon-to-be first-time mom, and sibling of an adoptee. Professionally, members of the training class have backgrounds ranging from high school to graduate degrees, and employment that includes social services, corporate work, and self-employment. Both parents and non-parents were in the class, and most had no prior knowledge of the foster system.
A representative from CASA said, CASA volunteers have court-ordered access to all parties in a foster child’s life, including foster parents, doctors, caseworkers, therapists and teachers, and incorporate into court reports findings from these contacts as well as from their own time spent with the youth. Volunteers advocate in the community and in court to ensure a youth’s needs are met and their time in care is as short as possible.
CASA also reported that half of the 600 Union County youth in care still await an advocate. More volunteers are needed to become a foster youth’s voice.
The next advocate training starts April 30. For details on training or other ways to help the organization reach more foster youth, contact Courtney at 908-293-8136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.