Two town residents become court advocates for foster children

West Milford. Two township women recently became court advocates for children in foster cafre.

10 Dec 2019 | 03:49

Jennifer McIntyre and Meredith Nicholls, both of West Milford, took an oath last month to provide a voice for abused and neglected children in Passaic County, organization officials said in a press release.

On Friday, Nov. 15, McIntyre and Nicholls, along with 12 others, became Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteers (CASAs) for children in foster care.

Passaic County Superior Court Judge Imre Karaszegi, Jr. presided over the swearing-in ceremony, which took place at the Passaic County Courthouse in Paterson.

Family, friends, and CASA staff watched as the new advocates pledged their oath of service and received their certificates.

“We are proud to welcome these new volunteers to the CASA family and we look forward to working with them and seeing the difference they will make in a child’s life,” said Passaic County CASA Executive Director, Erica Fischer-Kaslander.

The group was made up of 14 volunteers from the Passaic County area, all ready and eager to advocate on behalf of children involved in the child welfare system, the organization said.

According to the organization, these new CASA volunteers will now be assigned to work with children who have been abused or neglected, removed from their current living situation, and placed in the child welfare system.

They will get to know their child through monthly visits; learn about the child’s medical, educational, emotional, and physical needs; speak with parents, teachers, doctors, and family; and make informed recommendations to the Family Court Judge about what is best for the child.

Courtney Como (Director of Development) and Laura Nanda (Child Visitation Specialist/Distance Placement Liaison) were among the 14 new advocates who pledged their devotion to serving children in foster care, according to the release.

According to the release, Passaic County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) empowers volunteer advocates to champion the best interests of children in the foster care system.

CASA is the only program in New Jersey that uses trained volunteers to work one-on-one with children, ensuring that each child receives needed services and achieves permanency in a safe, nurturing home, the organization said in the release.

Although a new class of advocates was just sworn in, CASA is in constant need of dedicated volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children, the organization said.

CASA especially needs more male volunteers to work with teenage boys in foster care as well as bilingual volunteers to work with children and families who primarily speak Spanish.

“Every year there are about 500 kids who would benefit from a CASA (volunteer) to help them navigate the tough child welfare system,” said Fischer-Kaslander.

Anyone 21 or older with time, dedication, compassion, and a love for children can be a CASA, the organization said in the release.

Volunteers of different backgrounds, ages, and professions from all parts of northern New Jersey have joined CASA as volunteers.

There is no special training required; CASA will provide you with everything you need to know, according to the organization.

For more information on how to become a Court Appointed Special Advocate for children in foster care, visit www.passaiccountycasa.org/volunteer or call (973) 832-4002.