ELIZABETH, NJ — Marcela Tricanico, of Elizabeth, is one of the 15 newest representatives from among 13 municipalities to become court appointed special advocates inUnion County. They are tasked with serving as extra eyes and ears for family law judges on the cases of Union County youth that are removed from their home due to abuse, neglect or abandonment and placed in foster homes or residential facilities. The ceremony was held on Monday at the Union County Family Courthouse.

Said Tricanico, “To bring a smile to another is important to me. Having the opportunity to change a child’s life for the better is what I want to do, and seeing a child smile … makes me smile.”

After completion of approximately 30 hours’ training with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Union County, Tricanico 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’ court observation to see 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. Could that be you?

For further details as well as training opportunities, contact Courtney at cgreen@casaofunioncounty.org or 908-293-8136.

Other new advocates for Union County’s foster youth are, Stephen Wells of Westfield, Elizabeth Bennett of Rahway, Marykate La Bau of Cranford, Miozotty Diaz of Roselle Park, Lisa Betz of Summit, Andrea Balbuena of Kearny, Maryann Kaelin of Clark, Judge Richard Wischusen, Daniela Faibes of Mountainside, Hope Mitchell of Watchung, Samiyyah Muhammad of Linden, Sabrina Stein of Towaco, Nisha St. Louis of Irvington, Marcela Tricanico of Elizabeth, Kristin Steinmetz of Mountainside and Patricia Walsh of Cranford.

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