NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Those interested in helping children who have been removed from their birth parents' homes due to allegations of abuse and/or neglect can submit applications to volunteer with a Middlesex County-based organization known as CASA up until September 30.
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, and the CASA of Middlesex County is just one of many branches of a national organization.
Though it is a small non-profit, CASA has been growing exponentially in recent years.
However, the numbers of children removed from their birth parents' homes remains astounding, with about 50,000 children alleged to be victims of abuse or neglect in the State of New Jersey.
According to CASA, 13,000 of those children are removed from their homes and 30% of which do not return home for at least 3 years.
As a CASA volunteer, you are trained to help individual children gain stronger voices in the Court system, where Judges, lawyers and other officials see hundreds of child permanency cases and may overlook the special needs of a given child.
CASA volunteers are trained to make reccomendations based on their observations on a child's life in terms of their education, family, and overall well-being.
"The longer a child remains in the child welfare system, and the more times a child moves from home to home, the worse their chances of future success," reads an information guide published by CASA of New Jersey.
"With enabling legislation passed in 2010, CASA is the only entity authorized by State Statute to utilize trained volunteers to advocate for the best interests of children in placement."
No specific skills or experience is required, just a sense of responsibility, professionalism and a passion for helping others.
Those selected to be volunteers will get the chance to attend free training classes that discuss the role of the Department of Child Protection and Permanency (formerly known as DYFS) and other social services, how to draft reports for the Family court, child development, and other information crucial to doing the job of a volunteer court-appointed special advocate.
Editor's note: The author of this article is a trained and active CASA volunteer.