Four times a year, the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem counties (CASA of CGS) welcome a new group of volunteer advocates to the CASA family right here at Hopeloft. Appointed by the Family Court, CASA volunteers act as a child’s voice in court. Through self-led investigations on children’s cases, the volunteers ultimately recommend to the court an action plan that best fits the unique needs of each abused or neglected child.
The goal of CASA volunteers is to get every abused or neglected child in a safe and permanent home as quickly and efficiently as possible.
To do so, volunteers conduct research on assigned cases by contacting everyone involved in the child’s life, including social workers, attorneys, DCP&P workers, parents, teachers, family members, medical and mental health care providers, and, of course, the children themselves; the information provided by these key players in the children’s lives builds the foundation of each child’s case, and provide the volunteers with insight on prospective avenues for a bright, healthy, and safe future for each child.
To become a CASA Advocate and create a lasting positive impact on the lives of countless children, aspiring volunteers are initially interviewed by CASA of CGS Volunteer Coordinator Julia Frank, who asks a host of sensitive questions to ensure that each volunteer is unbiased, unprejudiced, and has the best interests of the children at their core.
Once they pass the interview, the volunteers are invited to participate in the 5-week hybrid training course, also led by Julia. Throughout the course, Julia teaches the volunteers a range of fundamental skills and processes central to the role as a CASA Advocate—from lessons on different types of abuse and neglect to how to investigate a child’s case and write court reports—which the volunteers will implement once they are officially sworn in at the conclusion of the training period.
“Since Julia has started our trainings, we've had such strong, interactive and engaged groups of volunteers come out of every class,” says CASA of CGS Program Director Jennifer Henderson. “She knows how to cover the critical topics while also making 30 hours of training manageable for anyone to fit into their busy schedules. If I were to go through training again, I'd definitely want Julia to train me!”
Changing the course of a child’s life is, arguably, the most important and rewarding impact anyone can leave on their community. If you love kids, possess exceptional communication skills (both written and verbal), and are dedicated to changing the lives of innocent children in need, then consider becoming a CASA Advocate! Advocates must be at least 21 years old; be able to communicate orally and in writing; be able to pass background and state central record bureau checks; have three non-relative references, and have an interest in children, their rights, and their special needs.
CASA of CGS' work in the community makes them an important part of Hopeloft's mission to house and support people and projects dedicated to solving serious social problems. We are grateful to work alongside of them everyday as they continue to change lives and the community.
For more information, do not hesitate to contact Jennifer Henderson at Jennifer@casaofcgs.org or Julia at Julia@casaofcgs.org.
Learn more and apply to become a advocate for CASA of Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties on their website!