CASA seeks advocate for every Passaic County child

Jun 05 2019 | 01:24 AM

    To the Editor:
    Every day, five children die from child abuse and neglect in our country.
    Unfortunately, it is too late to save these children through advocacy and awareness.
    However, there are more than 4 million referrals annually to child protective services. For those children, we must fight to raise awareness and provide a voice to champion their best interests.
    During May, which is Foster Care Awareness Month, Passaic County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) launched “An Advocate for Every Child” campaign with the goal of providing a compassionate, dedicated volunteer advocate to every child in the Passaic County foster care system.
    As the Executive Director of Passaic County CASA, I know that with more than 500 children locally in foster care each year, this is no small task.
    But I have also seen first-hand how children in foster care benefit from having a CASA volunteer on their side.
    “An Advocate for Every Child” is a considerable yet attainable goal that will positively affect the wellbeing of children in foster care, as well as the entire Passaic County community.
    Passaic County CASA will achieve “An Advocate for Every Child” by empowering volunteer advocates to champion the best interest of children in the foster care system. Our organization recruits, trains and supervisors members of the community to work one-on-one with a child or group of siblings who have been removed from home due to abuse or neglect and placed into a confusing, broken system.
    These wonderful volunteers help ensure that our county’s most vulnerable children get their needs met and achieve a safe and permanent home as soon as possible.
    Our CASA volunteers have guided many children toward success.
    For example, a young girl who caught up academically with her class even after losing four months of school because she moved three times in the last year, or the teen who received a scholarship even though only 3% of foster youth are able to graduate from college, or the boy who was finally reunited with his parents after a year in foster care because they received the help that they so desperately needed.
    In May, National Foster Care Month, Passaic County CASA experienced major successes and grew by leaps and bounds.
    In the beginning of the month, we moved into an office with double the square footage, which will allow for more capacity to serve more children.
    CASA staff hosted four volunteer information sessions throughout the month, where community members from across the county gathered to learn about how they can help support children in foster care.
    Our trained CASA volunteers represented their CASA child’s best interest at 78 court hearings and provided the Family Court with 78 reports on the child’s physical, emotional, developmental, and educationally needs.
    But always in the back of my mind, in May and year-round, is that not every child in the Passaic County foster care system has the benefit of a CASA volunteer advocate.
    Every child in foster care should be comforted knowing that one person, no matter what, will be by their side during their time in foster care.
    As a community, we must speak up and stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
    Everyone can do something to help alleviate the trauma children experience in foster care—by becoming a CASA volunteer and advocating for a child; training to be a CASA Ambassador to represent CASA at events; holding a fundraiser to support more children; donating new items or funds; or attending our annual No Place Like Home Tricky Tray and/or Voice for Children Gala.
    No matter how you become a part of Passaic County CASA, you will become part of a child’s success story. Learn more at www.passaiccountycasa.org.
    Erica Fischer-Kaslander,
    Executive Director, Passaic County CASA