By: Annalisa Ciro, Follow South Jersey Writer
BRIDGETON, N.J.—As National Foster Care Month comes to a close, CASA of Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem Counties (CASA of CGS) is urging community members to lend their voice and speak up on behalf of children who have experienced abuse or neglect in their community.
On any given day, there are roughly 430,000 children in foster care across the country, separated from their families and homes due to abuse or neglect. Oftentimes, these children are left feeling scared, alone, and confused. They deserve a voice–someone to advocate for their best interests and support them in their time of need. They deserve a CASA.
A CASA, or a Court Appointed Special Advocate, is a community volunteer who is specially trained and appointed by judges to advocate for the best interests of a child or sibling group while they are in the foster care system. They advocate for the child in court, school, and other settings; and get to know everyone involved in the child’s life, including their parents, foster parents, teachers, doctors, family members, and others. Through their communication with members of the child’s life, CASA volunteers are able to recommend appropriate resources that lead to the child’s placement in a safe, permanent home as quickly as possible.
“Our team is in dire need of more volunteer advocates,” said Jennifer Henderson, CASA of CGS Program Director. “We have children on our waiting list and children waiting to be referred to us from the court. Please don’t think you’re ever underqualified to provide a voice for a child. It only takes one person to change another’s life and I guarantee volunteering for a CASA child will change yours.”
Last year, CASA of CGS volunteers advocated for 365 children in foster care throughout their three counties. Yet, some children still don’t have a CASA volunteer to advocate for them. This month, 60 children are still waiting on the critical advocacy of a CASA volunteer. They need support from their community.
“Being a CASA advocate has shown me the difference I can make in someone’s life,” said CASA of CGS Volunteer Advocate Leighann Frampton. “I used to be skeptical when people said one person can change the world. But CASA’s shown me that one person can make a huge impact on someone’s life. All it takes is a little support.”
Assigned to one to two cases at a time, CASA volunteers dedicate their full attention to the children they serve, with the best interests of the children at the forefront of their work. They are steadfast, consistent presences for their CASA youth, making sure they are safe and have the resources and connections they need to grow and thrive. In all cases, the support and advocacy provided by CASA volunteers is vital for the safety and well-being of the youth they serve, and it ultimately creates a lifelong impact for them and their families.
If you’d like to get involved with CASA of CGS in the spirit of National Foster Care Month, visit their website at www.wespeakupforchildren.org or reach out to Program Director Jennifer Henderson at email@example.com for more information. Attend their upcoming virtual information session hosted by CASA of CGS Advocate Coordinator Cara Zoppina on May 31 at 6 p.m. for more details on taking the first step towards changing a child’s story. RSVP with Cara at firstname.lastname@example.org for the Zoom link.
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