This fall, community members from across Passaic County will once again have the opportunity to join together to begin training to become volunteer court-appointed special advocates (CASA) for children in foster care.
After completing the five-week training, volunteers will be sworn in by the Family Court judge as official court appointed special advocates. Volunteers will then be paired up with a child or group of siblings who are in foster care in Passaic County and start advocating on their behalf.
Volunteer court appointed special advocates are to provide a consistent, caring presence to these children, many of whom have been shuffled around from foster home to foster home and could truly benefit from consistency.
“I find great satisfaction in knowing my efforts can bring about meaningful change for a child whose world has been turned inside out,” said CASA volunteer Gino Arevalo.
Seats are still available for this free training, though they are filling up quickly. Training will be facilitated by Passaic County Court-appointed special advocates and will be held in Wayne.
More than 325 Passaic County children were in foster care in 2021 due to parental abuse, neglect, and/or abandonment. Children range in age from newborn up to 18 years old.
“These kids need a voice and aren’t able to speak for themselves,” said Michelle Schaefer of West Milford, who has been a CASA volunteer for more than six years.
Court-appointed special advocate volunteers do not require any specific educational or professional background. Volunteers are regular people from diverse socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. To become a CASA volunteer, a person must be 21 years or older, have the ability to communicate effectively both orally and in writing, pass a background check, and complete the training program.
Prior to attending training, volunteers must attend an informational session and fill out a volunteer application. The informational sessions give volunteers an opportunity to learn more about the program and ask questions about the volunteer experience before committing to the training program.
Information sessions are held via Zoom on the dates as follows: Saturday, September 10, at 10 a.m. and Wednesday, September 14, at 6 p.m. To register, visit passaiccountycasa.org/virtual-info-sessions or call 973-832-4002.
Passaic County CASA is a nonprofit organization that recruits, screens, trains, and supervises volunteers to “speak up for a child” removed from home due to abuse or neglect. CASA is the only program in New Jersey that uses trained volunteers to work one-on-one with children. For additional information, visit passaiccountycasa.org.