SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Scotch Plains Mayor Al Smith and the Town Council declared Tuesday, Dec. 12, as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Union County Day during a town hall ceremony this week.
Several Scotch Plains residents who are active volunteers with CASA attended in support of the dedication, including: Carmen Ayala, Jennifer Brady, Sheri Glover-Flanagan, Linda Jenkins-Davis, Geraldine Keogh, who also serves on the board of directors, Laurie Rando, and Christie Rothenberg.
CASA of Union County recruits, trains, supervises and supports community volunteers to advocate for abused, neglected and abandoned children placed in foster homes or residential facilities. There are nearly 600 Union County children, from birth to age 21, in foster care, and the nonprofit advocates for half of these youth. Volunteers ensure that children’s best interests remain the priority while working toward establishing a safe, stable and permanent home for each child. The organization’s goal is to provide a CASA volunteer for every foster youth.
“We are so grateful to Mayor Smith and the town council for recognizing not only the crucial work of CASA advocates for Union County’s foster youth, but for seeing the bigger picture," Executive Director Marla Higginbotham said. "Every one of our communities has children removed from home and placed in foster care through no fault of their own, and every community has the power to stand up."
"If each of the 21 towns in Union County represented like Scotch Plains — which right now has 12 residents advocating for foster youth — just imagine what could be accomplished! Being a CASA volunteer, serving as extra eyes and ears for the judge, is meaningful, powerful and life-changing on both sides," she added. "Thank you, Scotch Plains, for CASA Day!”
Most CASA volunteers have no prior knowledge of the foster system and varied backgrounds that contribute toward success with the youth. For example, the most recent class of CASA volunteers ranged from age 21 to 81, were parents and non-parents, recent retirees, college students, business professionals, a teacher, nurse, attorney, professor and homemakers. After training 30 hours and observing court, advocates are sworn in by a judge and receive court-granted access to a child and all parties in their life. They report findings to the judge, working to ensure their youth’s best interests remain a priority.
For details on training classes in the new year or for other ways to help CASA reach every foster youth, contact Courtney at firstname.lastname@example.org or (908) 293-8136.