ELIZABETH, NJ — Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Union County has added five new child advocates to its roster, including Mountainside’s Erin McGee. The newly trained volunteers were sworn in by Judge Marc R. Brown via Zoom and Judge James Hely logged in to offer congratulations and thanks.

Said McGee, “I feel very lucky to be part of CASA because it’s an opportunity to practice my values each day. This is a unique opportunity to learn and provide support within our community by connecting with people on a personal level.”

She and classmates Cynthia Evans and Suzanne Staszak-Silva of Scotch Plains, Kevin Charles of Roselle and Kathy Davis of Roselle Park will be matched to one or more of Union County’s most vulnerable youth removed from home due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. Considered extra eyes and ears for family law judges, the advocates will be assigned to their youth by court order, which grants access not only to the youth but to their foster parents, doctor, attorney, caseworker, therapist and teachers. Advocates regularly visit youth and connect with the case stakeholders to determine any outstanding needs or concerns, then report to the court and make recommendations.

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Successful advocates come from all walks of life and have varied backgrounds. Erin’s class ranges in age from 30s to 70s, are parents and non-parents, and bring backgrounds in management, coaching, publishing, the U.S. Postal Service and service with other nonprofits. One new advocate previously served with the CASA program in Essex County.

Executive Director Julienne Cherry noted, “This is our third class to be trained and sworn in virtually since Covid-19 emerged. While the power of a pandemic is undeniable – from impeding our ability to train in person and take oaths in court, to wreaking tremendous havoc and loss on our community, our state, our nation and the world – it is no match for the power of a community coming together to help those in need. This class is no exception: Despite personal, family and professional responsibilities, each has stepped up to help change the lives of Union County’s most vulnerable citizens, and I’ll let you in on a secret: It won’t be long before this journey changes their lives, too.”

There are approximately 400 Union County youth from birth to age 21 living in foster care, and each deserve the consistency of a caring, responsible adult in their corner. Is that you? For details on how to secure a seat in the next training, contact Abby at agallego@casaofunioncounty.org.

Caption:
Joining Judge Marc R. Brown, bottom row, center, are Union County’s newest child advocates: from left, top row, Cynthia Evans of Scotch Plains and Erin McGee of Mountainside; middle, Suzanne Staszak-Silva of Scotch Plains, Kathy Davis of Roselle Park and Kevin Charles of Roselle.