ELIZABETH, NJ - Roselle’s Kevin Byron is among the latest community volunteers to complete child advocacy training and take an oath from Superior Court Judge James Hely to become Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Union County. After being sworn in, Byron said, “CASA is a terrific agency and the staff so dedicated. I hope to help in this very important venture — after all, when there’s a person drowning, it’s up to the person inside the boat to help.”
CASA volunteers serve as extra eyes and ears for family law judges hearing cases involving the county’s abused, neglected or abandoned children removed from the home and placed in foster care. They have court-ordered access to all parties in a foster child’s life, including foster parents, doctors, caseworkers, therapists and teachers, and incorporate findings into court reports from these contacts as well as time spent with the youth. In addition to ensuring their needs are met and best interests protected, the CASA volunteers aim to become a constant in the life of their assigned youth, who are living amid unknowns about their future, changing caseworkers and multiple foster homes.
The new advocates are ages 28 to 72 and include parents and non-parents; professionals in business, technology, education and law enforcement; students; retirees; and homemakers. Most had no prior knowledge of the foster system. Each will soon receive their case and meet the foster youth for whom they will advocate.
The goal for CASA is for every Union County foster child to have an advocate. Half of the more than 500 such youth still await one.
The next training begins July 11, and two additional trainings are slated for the fall. For details, contact Courtney at 908-293-8136 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or log on to www.casaofunioncounty.org.
Joining CASA Executive Director Marla Higginbotham, left, and Superior Court Judge James Hely, center, are, from left, newly sworn advocates Lisa Harold of Elizabeth, Kevin Byron of Roselle, Soraya Fernandez of Cranford, Doris Johnson of Linden, Lori Leiter of Summit, Juliet Lehavi of Westfield, Shymaa Mansour of Jersey City, Susan Wright of Winfield and Barbara Whitaker of Union.