Volunteer with CASA of CGS as an Advocate for Local Foster Youth

By: Annalisa Ciro

Photo: Jon Bradley | Follow South Jersey

CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.J. — Calling all community volunteers! Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem counties (CASA of CGS) is recruiting volunteer advocates for their virtual Spring training course, to begin on February 8 and conclude on March 12. Applications are due by January 29 and no experience is necessary. 

CASA of CGS holds four training sessions per year to welcome a new group of volunteer advocates to the CASA family. Appointed by the Family Court, CASA volunteers act as an abused or neglected child’s voice in court. Through self-led investigations on children’s cases, the volunteers recommend to the court an action plan that best fits the unique needs of each abused or neglected child. The CASA volunteer’s ultimate goal is to make a recommendation that serves the best interests of the child, ensuring they are placed in a safe, permanent home as quickly as possible. 

CASA of CGS has transitioned to virtual learning for the 5-week program in order to ensure the safety of the advocates and coordinators during the ongoing pandemic. Hosted on Google Classrooms, the online training course is self-paced, easy to navigate, and run by Training and Recruitment Coordinator Julia Schulzhenko, who teaches and guides the incoming volunteers throughout the process. 

“Since Julia has started our trainings, we’ve had such strong, interactive and engaged groups of volunteers come out of every class,” CASA of CGS Program Director Jennifer Henderson said. “She knows how to cover the critical topics while also making 30 hours of training manageable for anyone to fit into their busy schedules. If I were to go through training again, I’d definitely want Julia to train me!”

Volunteering for CASA requires no relevant background experience. Volunteers come from a host of varying careers and all walks of life, and volunteering is completely manageable even with a full-time career or while in college. All you need is a love of children and a passion for giving back to your community. 

“If you have a passion for helping kids then go for it — become a CASA volunteer,” said volunteer advocate Will Abbott. “I think that CASA does some amazing things, and to be a part of it is so rewarding. You’re a part of something bigger than yourself.”

“This will change your life more than you can think,” volunteer advocate Giavanna Ross added. “You think you’re making a difference in the child’s life, but they’re making a difference in yours.”

Now more than ever, abused and neglected children in our community need the support and advocacy of a caring adult who will speak up for their best interests and empower them to reach their fullest potential. CASA of CGS is especially looking for Spanish-speaking bilingual advocates to help better serve their Hispanic community, as well as male advocates. 

Apply to become an advocate on CASA of CGS’s website at www.wespeakupforchildren.org

If you are interested in volunteering and would like to learn more, CASA of CGS is hosting three virtual Q&A sessions on its Facebook Live throughout January. Join them at noon on January 5 and January 16 or at 6 p.m. on January 19 on its Facebook Live to get answers to all your CASA-related questions. You can also follow CASA of CGS on Facebook and Instagram for more information.

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