By: Annalisa Ciro, Follow South Jersey Writer
BRIDGETON, N.J. – Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem counties (CASA of CGS) is calling for community members to step up and advocate for local children and families involved in the child welfare system. Training is both online and free, beginning on October 11th with an application deadline of September 30th.
Committed to the well-being of youth who have experienced abuse or neglect, CASA volunteers advocate for a child or sibling group while they are in foster care. The volunteers conduct an independent investigation into their CASA youth’s life in order to ensure they are placed in a safe, permanent home as quickly as possible. Based on their findings, they prepare recommendations to the court that serve the youth’s best interests.
In Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem counties, there were over 1400 children who could have been served with an advocate over the last year alone. CASA’s ultimate goal is to provide every single child in foster care in the three counties they serve with a CASA volunteer who will stand up for their needs and support their futures–and with your help, it can be done.
“Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have been feeling increased stress, anxiety, and isolation. Children involved in the foster care system are no exception,” said Jennifer Henderson, Program Director of CASA of CGS. “We are all trying to be safe and responsible to protect the health of the people we care about, but, at the same time, we feel completely helpless knowing there are children who are still in need of a caring adult who will advocate for their best interests. We want the children who are in foster care right here in our community to know they have an advocate on their side.”
Henderson urges that there is no better time to get involved with CASA than now. With info sessions, pre-service volunteer training, and swearing-in ceremonies currently conducted online, you can make a difference in the lives of children and families in the foster care system right from your own home. And CASA’s virtual training will provide a chance to connect with others who are seeking the same thing—ways to help.
New volunteers will join the growing number of advocates at CASA of CGS who are currently serving over 400 children. Advocates come from diverse backgrounds and different experiences, all of which are beneficial to the children that are served. They are medical professionals, engineers, stay-at-home mothers, teachers, jet pilots, retirees, professional live-streamers, and more who serve and successfully advocate for their CASA children. No matter their story, advocates are consistent, positive presences in the lives of their CASA youth, helping them stay connected with their families and communities, and championing their best interests every step of the way.
“COVID-19 has changed how we conduct our advocacy work, but it has not changed our drive and passion to serve the children and families of this community,” said Henderson. “With so much uncertainty in the world, we want to help give these kids peace of mind, stability, and connection. We want them to feel safe and comfortable, and we never want a child in foster care to go without a CASA volunteer–especially now. That’s why we need our community to stand up and join us in our advocacy.”
If you’ve been looking for a unique way to serve your community, join the CASA movement. What better time than now? Access the volunteer application here, and find out more about becoming a CASA volunteer or other ways to get involved by visiting their website, following them on Facebook and Instagram, or by making a donation to support their mission.
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