NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Local nonprofit Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Middlesex County will honor Mayor James Cahill
Mayor Cahill, in addition to twelve others that make up an Honorary Committee will be acknowledged and honored at Steakhouse 85 during an open house brunch program on May 1.
“It’s a privilege to honor Mayor Jim Cahill at the Toast," said licensed social worker Stephanie Brown, who is the Program Director for CASA of Middlesex County.
"We will be celebrating his leadership and dedication to the city of New Brunswick," Brown explained in an email. "I am grateful for his support of CASA as we work together to brighten the future for New Brunswick’s children.”
The program starts at 12:30pm and tickets can be purchased for $100.00.
The price of admission includes brunch at Steakhouse 85, located at 85 Church Street. In addition to the honorees, many other supporters of the organization, including CASA volunteers will be in attendance along with a family with five children who have received CASA's services.
CASA of Middlesex, located on the same block as the steakhouse, is an organization dedicated to fighting for the best interests of children in the foster care system involved in cases of alleged abuse or neglect.
CASA advocates perform a range of tasks pertaining to the case involving a specific foster child, or a whole sibling set's, case handled through "Children in Court" (CIC) of the Family Division of the Middlesex County Superior Court.
The volunteer advocates conduct interviews with children, birth parents, resource parents, family members, and correspond with various agencies such as the Division of Child Permanency and Protection (formerly known as DYFS) and any daycares, schools or doctor's offices for updates as to a child's progress and strive to paint a bigger picture of a specific child's life for the court to review.
Reports to the Middlesex County Superior Court, authored by the CASA advocates, are read and considered by judges hearing cases concerning foster children, and include important background information, reccomendation, medical information, updates on progress in school and development.
“I was privileged as a child and to see everything some children have to endure at such a young age, it humbled me," resports Juliana Londono-Osorio, who has been a volunteer with CASA of Middlesex since December 2014.
"I think being humble is key in all situations with our kids. Sitting back and just listening to what they have to say…gives them a sense of self and empowers their voice, something many of them have lost through unfortunate experiences.”
According to their mid-year review, by the end of 2015, CASA states that they have served 102 children total, which is about 24% more than the year prior.
In 2015, there was a total of 55 court appointed special advocates with CASA of Middlesex County, a group of volunteers many of whom are supervised by Senior Program Coordinator Colette Scozzafava. This month saw yet another group of volunteers complete their training soon to be assigned cases.
CASA of Middlesex's monthly newsletter also proudly reads, "As for happily ever after? We saw 13 children return to their biological families, 6 children get adopted, and 2 move in permanently with relatives."
This year, CASA of Middlesex has partnered with Westfield-based A Birthday Wish, an organization that aims to provide birthday gifts for foster children.
CASA Advocates are required to complete 30 hours of training and then are assigned to a specific case where they are entrusted to investigate and advocate for the best interests of a foster child.
Those interested in possibly volunteering with CASA of Middlesex County should visit their website at http://www.casaofmiddlesexcounty.org/volunteer.
The members of CASA's 2016 Honorary Committee are:
- Senator Christopher Bateman
- Steve DeMicco, Chairman of Message & Media, Inc.
- Assemblyman Joseph Egan
- John Fitzgerald, CEO of Magyar Bank
- Jeanne Fox, President of Associate Alumnae of Douglass College
- Senator Linda Greenstein
- Mitchell Karon, Executive Director of New Brunswick Parking Authority
- Mayor John McCormac
- Christopher Paladino, President of DEVCO
- Senator Bob Smith
- Senator Samuel Thompson
- Senator Joseph Vitale
- Assemblyman John Wisniewski
Editor's Note: The author of this article is an advocate with CASA of Middlesex County.