On February 23, 2017 a group of community volunteers were sworn in as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) by The Honorable Maritza Berdote Byrne. CASA of Morris and Sussex Counties, a local non-profit organization, trains and supervises community volunteers to advocate for the best interests of children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment.

The new volunteers have made the extraordinary commitment to “speak up” for these vulnerable children in court and to ensure that they receive the medical and educational resources they need to thrive, and most importantly that they find permanent, safe, and nurturing homes in a timely manner.

Family and friends gathered in the Morris County Courthouse to watch the volunteers take an oath agreeing to advocate for the best interest of the child and to perform the role of a judiciary volunteer. The new volunteers include Elaine Backer (Randolph), Agnes Clyne (Morristown), Janet Davis (Morristown), Mary Day (Hamburg), Adele Fasano (Morristown), Theodore Groh (West Milford), Karen Gruss (Long Valley), Dawn Haagensen (Morristown), Stacy Harrison (Bernardsville), Marialena Kearns (Mountain Lakes), Thomas Kelleher (Madison), Mae Noonan (Lake Hiawatha), Mary Owens (Sparta), Lisa Pompey (Sparta), Cecelia Puglio (Sparta), Jeanne Seigle (Morristown), and Michelle Sharpe (Towaco).

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CASA volunteers participate in an extensive 36 hour training program before officially being sworn in to be assigned a child in the foster care system. The CASA volunteers ensure that these vulnerable children receive the educational and medical resources they need to thrive and that they find safe, permanent, loving homes as soon as possible.

CASA volunteers visit with the child regularly attend court hearings, school meetings, and meet with all parties involved in the child’s case. The volunteers report their findings to the judge and make recommendations for the child’s best interest.

“Our volunteers pledge to stay with each child until the case is closed, and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home," said Lisa Barsky Firkser, Executive Director of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Morris and Sussex Counties. "The advocate is often the only consistent adult presence in the child’s life.”