Twelve New CASA Volunteers Set to Speak Up for Abused and Neglected Children, Next Volunteer Training Begins Oct. 9

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By: SNJ Today Staff

Newly sworn-in Cumberland County advocates pose for a photo with Judge Michael R. Ostrowski Jr. Pictured from left to right: Lisa Shelton, the Hon. Michael R. Ostrowski, Jr., Lea DeStefanis, Monica Mason, and Wanda Otero. Photo courtesy of CASA of CGS.

BRIDGETON, N.J. — Twelve more community volunteers were sworn in over the past few weeks by Superior Court judges in Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem Counties to serve as Court Appointed Special Advocates. These generous volunteer advocates will work to ensure the best interests of abused and neglected children in our communities are met.

Now that they have completed the required 30 hours of pre-service training with CASA of Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem Counties, this latest group of volunteers will join an organization that already has over 100 volunteers. And they’re now ready to be assigned to their first case and assist a child in desperate need of a voice in the court system. For some children, their assigned CASA will be the only consistent presence in their life for the duration of their case — which, in some instances, can last for several months. The growing number of volunteers at CASA of CGS are currently serving nearly 400 children.

The latest Salem advocates to be sworn in, standing with Judge Jean S. Chetney. Pictured from left to right, Devon Sprague, Jodi-Lynn Mareno, Aimee Jason, and the Hon. Jean S. Chetney. Photo courtesy of CASA of CGS.

In Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem Counties, however, there were over 1,400 children who could have been served by an advocate over the last year. It is the stated goal of CASA of CGS to provide an advocate to every single abused or neglected child in the three counties, and with the help of new volunteer advocates, it can be done. CASA volunteers work one-on-one with a child who has been a victim of abuse or neglect, advocating for his or her best interests. CASA volunteers “speak up” for these children in the court and child welfare systems, making sure they are safe and well-cared for, are receiving the services they need, and are ultimately placed in a permanent, safe, nurturing home.

CASA’s newest Gloucester advocates stand with Judge John J. Matheussen. Pictured from left to right, the Hon. John J. Matheussen, Yvonne Leung, Jennifer Turner, Donna Lightcap, Judith Risser, and Mary Ortner. Photo courtesy of CASA of CGS.

Advocates come from diverse backgrounds and different experiences — all of which are beneficial to the children that are served. There are medical professionals, engineers, stay-at-home mothers, teachers, pilots, retirees, and various others who serve and successfully advocate for their CASA children. Advocates serve a vital role on behalf of children in providing court reports to the judge that include accurate, up-to-date information about the child they serve and his/her situation and make independent recommendations regarding his/her best interests. 

CASA will host a new fall training beginning on Oct. 9. The training is free, and anyone interested in becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate should email CASA of CGS’s Recruiting Coordinator, Julia Frank, at julia@casaofcgs.org. There is more information about CASA, as well as a volunteer application, on the organization’s website: www.wespeakupforchildren.org.