ELIZABETH, NJ - Thanks to Maryann Kaelin, Clark was among 13 municipalities represented by the 15 newest court appointed special advocates tasked with serving as extra eyes and ears for family law judges on the cases of Union County youth removed from their home due to abuse, neglect or abandonment and placed in foster homes or residential facilities. The ceremony was held recently at the Union County Family Courthouse.

“The reason I decided to become a CASA is to let these children in foster care know there is someone besides their family that is here for them; someone that truly cares and will help them. My hope is they can enjoy being a kid and forget about the adult issues,” said Kaelin.

After completion of approximately 30 hours’ training with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Union County, Kaelin and her classmates took their oath and were sworn in as advocates and judicial volunteers by Superior Court Judge Richard Wischusen. After completion of three hours of court observation to observe seasoned CASA volunteers in action, the new advocates will meet their assigned foster youth or siblings.

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The new advocates range from age 23 to 66, are parents and nonparents, and work in such fields as education, nonprofit, and law enforcement, as well as homemakers. Most had no prior knowledge of the foster system.

With court-ordered access to foster parents, doctors, caseworkers, therapists and teachers, CASA volunteers incorporate their findings into court reports and work to ensure each youth’s needs are met and best interests protected. They are a constant during chaos and work to ensure the youth’s trauma is not exacerbated in care.

There are approximately 500 Union County youth from birth to age 21 in foster care, and more than 200 are still waiting for their very own CASA volunteer in their corner.  For more information about becoming a CASA contact Courtney at cgreen@casaofunioncounty.org or
908-293-8136.