Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children of Mercer & Burlington Counties is currently seeking new volunteers! CASA is a non-profit organization that recruits, trains and supervises community volunteers who speak up in Family Court for the best interests of children who have been removed from their families due to abuse and/or neglect and are placed in the foster care system. An upcoming information session is scheduled for Thursday, May 19 @ 11am via ZOOM and will last about 1 hour.
Change a Child’s Story! Things turn out differently when you volunteer!
Keep reading to learn about the impact a CASA can make. You can read more here.
Helping a Family Stay Together. . .
The Robinson family became involved with the state Division of Child Protection and Permanency when the children stopped attending school. When Kenneth, the youngest child, missed a week of kindergarten his concerned school counselor visited the home. What the counselor found was a house without food, not enough beds for all six children, and unsanitary conditions including mice and raw sewage backing up in the bathtub. The children’s mother had struggled with mental health issues her whole life. When she was on her medication she was fine, but she had recently lost her job and gone off her medication, impacting her ability to care for her children. The state tried to help Ms. Robinson access services for her and her children but when she failed to do so the kids were removed. Ms. Robinson grew up in the community and several neighbors also tried to help the family stay together by becoming foster parents. The six children were placed in three different foster homes within their town. Another fortunate event for the children occurred when the Judge assigned three CASA volunteers to their case.
Michelle and Keisha, the oldest siblings felt responsible for their younger sisters and brother and were extremely angry with their mother. Their CASA met with the adolescent sisters and listened patiently to their concerns, but what she heard through the anger were the voices of two girls who loved their mother. Our CASA arranged for the girls to begin attending family counseling with their mother. Soon the four younger children joined the weekly therapy sessions. In the meantime, the three CASA volunteers made sure that the children were all doing well in school.
They worked with the school system to provide tutoring for the children after school in order to catch up on all the content they had missed while home with their mom. By the time the children reunified with their mother, the family had completed family counseling successfully. Ms. Robinson had addressed her mental health issues, and was following up with all services she and the children had in place thanks to the support of their CASA volunteers.
Can you give 5-15 hours/month to change a child’s life? Click
here to find out how.
Finding a Family for Two Brothers. . .
Joe and Bob were initially removed from their home when they were very young due to physical abuse by a father who struggled with alcoholism. Their mother was addicted to opioids and disappeared a year after the boys entered state care. Joe and Bob were then adopted when they were in elementary school by a family who seemed to provide a stable home.
Unfortunately, their new family struggled with domestic violence and the boys had to be removed several times from their new adoptive parents as a result of physical abuse. After several failed reunifications with their adoptive parents, the boys were placed in a new foster home where they could remain until they turned 21 and aged out of foster care. During this time their adoptive mother surrendered her parental rights, freeing them to be adopted once again. By this time the brothers were adolescents and had been hurt and rejected so many times by the adults in their lives that neither had an interest in being adopted.
Luckily for Joe and Bob, a Family Court Judge concerned with their well-being appointed a CASA volunteer on their case. Our CASA began visiting with the boys regularly and established a trusting relationship over visits to the local pizza shop. She found the boys polite but guarded when it came to expressing their feelings and wishes for the future. Bob told his CASA that he didn’t think about a future beyond next week because all his plans always failed. One of the first things our CASA did when she was appointed on the case was to review the brothers’ case file. While reading through the file she found a reference that apparently no one else had seen to an uncle that had expressed interest in adopting the boys many years ago.
When our CASA asked the caseworker about the suitability of placing the boys with their uncle the caseworker agreed but the CASA would first have to find him and then see if he would still take in two teen boys. The CASA knew she had to do all she could to locate Joe and Bob’s uncle. She spent hours searching through the case file for contact information and then on the internet. Eventually she located their uncle, who was living out of state. The uncle was very upset to hear what the boys had been through and was still very interested in welcoming them into his family. Six months later, and days before Thanksgiving, Joe and Bob were adopted by their aunt and uncle. Two years later they are thriving in high school and going on college tours with their new family. Both boys are now able to see a future with many possibilities thanks to our CASA finding their forever family.
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