WAYNE, NJ - While the COVID-19 public heath crisis has shut down much of our day-to-day lives it hasn't brought a halt to child abuse, Erica Fischer-Kaslander, executive director of Passaic County CASA, lamented. "In fact," she said, "studies show that instances of abuse and neglect rise when there’s increased financial stress on a family and when victims are sequestered at home with an abuser."

In an effort to continue their work of providing critical services to Passaic County children removed from home due to abuse or neglect, Passaic County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) held its first-ever virtual swearing in ceremony for 13 new volunteer advocates via Zoom earlier this month. The ceremony was presided over by Passaic County Family Court Judge Imre Karaszegi Jr. 

“This has been a difficult period of adjustment for those of us in the child advocacy community and our work has never been more critical," Fischer-Kaslander said of efforts to minimize the disruption to the organization' by moving its work online and continuing to recruit, train, and supervise volunteer advocates to work one-on-one with children involved in the foster care and child welfare systems. 

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"The role of a CASA volunteer is more important than ever, and we’re working hard to continue to recruit and train volunteers and equip them with the resources necessary to meet the needs of our most vulnerable children.” 

The 13 new CASA volunteers are:

  • Dale Ambrogio, Pompton Lakes
  • Donna Corcoran, Pompton Lakes
  • Shakia McKinney, Paterson
  • Joann Murphy, Wanaque
  • Nicole O’Connell, Harrison
  • Reid Paul, Wayne
  • Jenny Paul, Wayne
  • Julie Ritsema, Wayne, and CASA’s newest employee
  • Elisa Romero, Lyndhurst
  • Jessica Slider, Wayne
  • Michelle Wanat, Riverdale
  • Susan White, Wayne
  • Tracey Wingo, Haledon

To sign up or learn more about becoming a volunteer advocate, email Jessica Mickley, Director of Outreach and Training, at jessica@passaiccountycasa.org, or call 973-832-4002, ext. 201 for more information. For those looking to support Passaic County CASA with a donation, visit https://passaiccasa.kindful.com.