Westfield resident Joyce Williams was sworn in as court-appointed special advocates (CASAs) last week.

“I was drawn to Court Appointed Special Advocates of Union County because its mission is to advocate for each child and their distinctive situation," Williams said. "As a CASA volunteer, I can have a practical role in ending the cycle of dehumanization for at least one child.”

Superior Court Judge James Hely administered oaths to Williams and others from Cranford, Elizabeth, Fanwood, Hillside, Linden, Plainfield, Rahway, Roselle, Scotch Plains and Summit, 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.