Ten Community Leaders Sworn In as CASA of CGS Volunteers

By: Follow South Jersey Staff

BRIDGETON, N.J. – On August 12, The Honorable Judge Mathuessen officially swore in ten new CASA volunteers via Zoom. Also known as Court Appointed Special Advocates, these volunteers will work with CASA of CGS to advocate for children and families involved in the foster care system in Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem counties.

“I am very excited about becoming a CASA and being able to encourage children in foster care,” Heather Zimmerman, one of the newly sworn-in volunteers with CASA of CGS, said. “As a former foster parent, I am looking forward to being able to support children living through trauma in a different way. I have seen first hand the need for a CASA, as the children in our care did not have one. I hope to be able to build special relationships with kids in foster care and make a difference in their lives.”

This new class of CASA volunteers will join a team of 153 advocates and will be assigned to a child or sibling group who they will commit to advocating for until the closure of their case. As a part of their advocacy, they will get to know important adults in the life of the child they represent, such as parents, foster parents, teachers, doctors, therapists, and more. 

“I’ve been so impressed with this group’s level of expertise and compassion toward the challenges our children face,” Jennifer Henderson, Program Director of CASA of CGS, said. “They are prepared to provide a voice for children in court and are equipped with the resources to help families thrive. These volunteers are an asset to our communities and I am grateful for their service.”

CASA volunteers go through 30 hours of in-depth, pre-service training before they are appointed by a judge to their case. They advocate for the child they represent in every facet of their life and make recommendations to the court about their best interests. Volunteers advocate for reunification as their primary goal whenever it is safe and possible to do so. When reunification is not an option, they may advocate for the child to live with another relative or family friend. They can also advocate for the child to be placed in an adoptive home. 

In all cases, CASA volunteers are steadfast, consistent presences for the children they serve, making sure they are safe and have the resources and connections they need to grow and thrive. They work with families to build life-long support systems for both the child and parents that will continue after the case is closed. 

“Thank you all for making the decision to change a child’s story. I am positive you will have an impact made within your lives as well!” Henderson said. “There is nothing that can bring change to the world more than supporting the care of our children. Welcome to our team!”

If you are interested in becoming a CASA volunteer at CASA of CGS, you can visit their website at www.wespeakupforchildren.org; reach out to Recruitment and Training Coordinator Julia Shulzhenko at julia@casaofcgs.org for more information; and follow them on Facebook and Instagram to stay up-to-date on their upcoming volunteering events, information sessions, fundraisers, and more.

Follow South Jersey provides local journalism which highlights our diverse communities; fosters transparency through robust, localized, and vital reporting that holds leaders and institutions accountable; addresses critical information needs; supports people in navigating civic life; and equips people with the information necessary to partake in effective community engagement. If there is a story or event you think we should cover, please send your tips to news@followsouthjersey.com with “NEWS” in the subject line.