Judge swears in 13 CASA volunteers

ELIZABETH, NJ — Plainfield is among 11 Union County towns represented last week by volunteers sworn in as court appointed special advocates (CASAs), thanks to resident Sharina Briggs, who says, “I became a CASA to be a voice for a child in need and to make a positive difference in their life.”

Superior Court Judge James Hely administered oaths to Briggs and others from Cranford, Elizabeth, Fanwood, Hillside, Linden, Rahway, Roselle, Scotch Plains, Summit and Westfield, before they were matched to a foster youth or sibling set ranging from birth to age 21. After court observation of experienced CASA volunteers in action, the new advocates will meet their assigned youth.

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Volunteers with Court Appointed Special Advocates of Union County are extra eyes and ears for family law judges hearing cases involving abused, neglected or abandoned children removed from home and placed in foster care. With court-ordered access to such parties as foster parents, doctors, caseworkers, therapists and teachers, the advocates incorporate findings into court reports for the judge and work to ensure the youth’s needs are met and best interests are protected. CASA volunteers serve another important role for their youth: being a constant amid a flurry of unknowns and changes, including multiple caseworkers, foster homes and schools.

This class ranges from age 23 to 70 and includes parents, non-parents, business and medical professionals, county employees, retirees and homemakers. One was adopted from foster care and another has guardianship of nieces from the system. Most had no prior knowledge of the foster system.

It’s crucial that each of the more than 500 Union County foster youth have an advocate. As the only organization filling this role, community volunteers are still needed, and are encouraged to join one of the fall training sessions that begin Sept. 17 (evenings) and Oct. 12 (daytime). For details, contact Courtney at 908-293-8136 or cgreen@casaofunioncounty.org, or log on to www.casaofunioncounty.org.


Group photo:  Joining CASA Executive Director Marla Higginbotham, left, and Superior Court Judge James Hely, center, are from left, new advocates Edwin Charlotin of Linden, Carolyn Colonna of Fanwood, Sharina Briggs of Plainfield, Hermonise Auguste of Hillside, Judy Eisenhardt of Cranford, Amanda Greenblatt of Summit, Alexandria Infante and Nathalie Hernandez of Elizabeth, Judy Sturm of Scotch Plains, Sherise Winston-Pollard of Roselle, Joyce Williams of Westfield, Dorothy Wolf of Cranford and Danni Newbury of Rahway.