Law & Justice

Volunteers Help Give Foster Children a Voice

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CASA volunteers are men and women from all walks of life, as well as diverse socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. Credits: Passaic County CASA
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WAYNE, NJ- Just two weeks after Passaic County Superior Court Judge Imre Karaszeig swore in 19 new volunteers to act as official advocates for children in foster care, Passaic County CASA has put out a call for new recruits.

Passaic County CASA is a nonprofit organization that recruits, screens, trains, and supervises volunteers to “Speak Up for a Child” removed from home due to abuse or neglect. CASA is the only program in New Jersey that uses trained volunteers to work one-on-one with children, ensuring that each child receives needed services and achieves permanency in a safe, nurturing home.

In 2017, according to a statement released by the organization, over 600 youth went through the Passaic county foster care system. However, because of a limited number of volunteers, only 25 percent of them were fortunate to benefit from a CASA.

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“We are honored to have 19 new Court Appointed Special Advocates, and are confident that they will make a true difference for Passaic County Children in foster care,” said Passaic County CASA Executive Director Erica Fischer-Kaslander following the swearing-in. “However, there are still 300 children in Passaic County awaiting an advocate to speak up for their best interests. We continue to look for compassionate volunteers to make sure our most vulnerable children do not fall through the cracks of the child welfare system.”

Among the newly sworn in CASAs was Paterson resident Denise Martinez who told TAPinto Paterson that it was her “great love and passion for youth” that drove her to volunteer for the program. “I always believed in the village watch with a child,” she said. “I believe CASA brings that atmosphere.”

Each Court Appointed Special Advocate must complete 36 hours of training in areas including child development, the court and child welfare systems,  and interviewing children. This training now can be completed during a condensed two week daytime training program. Prospective volunteers are encouraged to attend an upcoming information session where they can learn more about the program and ask questions about the experience. Upcoming sessions, will be held in Passaic County CASA’s Wayne office, located at 451 Hamburg Turnpike, on April  5  and  14 beginning at 10:00 a.m. and on May 2 beginning at 6:00 p.m.

“Anyone can become a Court Appointed Special Advocate,” Passaic County CASA Director of Outreach and Training Jessica Mickley said. “All you need is compassion, commitment, and a willingness to learn. You don’t have to have any special training to become a CASA; we will provide all of the resources and information you need.”

 

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