WESTFIELD, NJ — Westfield Mayor Shelley Brindle read a proclamation at Tuesday night’s town council meeting making Friday, March 30, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Union County Day. That date also is the 13th anniversary of the organization’s incorporation. There are nearly 30 Westfield residents who are active volunteers and board members, according to CASA of Union County, and many attended in support of the dedication.

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 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.

“Westfield residents have been tremendous in their efforts for fragile children in our community,” Executive Director Marla Higginbotham said in a press release. “They’ve truly changed lives. Having Mayor Brindle and the town council recognize the crucial work of our volunteer advocates helps shine a light on the big picture: children are abused and removed from home throughout all of Union County and placed in foster care, and every municipality can help change the course of those childhoods. We’ve advocated for nearly 600 youth since 2005, and right now 25 Westfield residents are doing their part to increase that total. Just imagine the possibilities and the children who will be reached when all 21 towns embrace the need for awareness and action for local youth in care! Thank you, Westfield!”

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Most CASA volunteers have no prior knowledge of the foster system; varied backgrounds contribute toward success with the youth, according to CASA of Union County. The most recent class of CASA volunteers ranged from age 21 to 81, were parents, non-parents, retirees, college students, business professionals, teachers, a nurse, attorney and homemakers. Advocates are sworn in by a judge and given court-ordered access to a child and all parties in their life. They report findings to the judge and ensure their youth’s best interests remain a priority.

For details on upcoming trainings or other ways to help, contact Courtney at cgreen@casaofunioncounty.org or 908-293-8136.