More than 50 volunteers, staff, family court judges and board members attended the 2018 Mercer County Advocate Appreciation Awards dinner on April 9 at Mercer Oaks Clubhouse in Hamilton Township on April 9. CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties is celebrating the volunteers with years of service pins and certificates. The awards dinner was a wonderful evening to recognize the tireless work of volunteers who are the consistent adult in children’s lives while in out-of-home placement. The evening was particularly special because CASA honored Judge Audrey P. Blackburn, who is retiring after a distinguished judicial career – much of it devoted to improving the lives of children in foster care to create forever families. Judge Thompson also made some brief remarked and thanked the volunteers for their compassion and tenacity.
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties hosted a public presentation with Sasha Joseph Neulinger, actor, filmmaker and survivor of child sexual abuse at The College of New Jersey in Ewing. Sasha is a national advocate for reforms in child abuse and child abuse prevention. The statistics are alarming: one out of four girls and one of out of six boys are sexually abused before they are 18 years old. Sasha Joseph Neulinger shared his poignant story with a audience of CASA volunteers, educators, counselors and students. His TedX Talk is a powerful story to people around the world. Sasha’s TED Talk on March 27, 2015, Trauma is Irreversible. How It Shapes Us Is Our Choice has been viewed over 170,000 times to date. Sasha recounts his trauma in his film-making, ”There were countless moments in my life where I wanted to silence myself, crawl into a corner, and disappear from the world. Between the ages of 7 and 13, I even tried to end my life a few different ways. I choose love. I choose patience…. most of the time.”
CASA, court appointed special advocates, is a group of community volunteers who have been appointed by the family court and have undergone training. These volunteers all have a similar interest of advocating for abused and neglected children that have been removed from their homes. The Family Court Judges delegate each child to a CASA volunteer where they then aim to maintain their emotional, physical, and educational well-being by monitoring where they are placed. Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home.
Our advocates change children’s lives. Lives like Guillermo, who was trafficked to the United States from Ecuador when he was 11 years old and forced into manual labor, to pay off family debts. He was made to work every day and not allowed to attend school. Finally, after five years Guillermo escaped and contacted the local police. Child Protective Services then helped him move into a youth homeless shelter as an emergency placement. Our CASA volunteer, Noelle, was assigned to Guillermo a month later. Noelle quickly realized how much support Guillermo needed and didn’t hesitate to act. Guillermo, on top of having no family connections, spoke very little English and had not gone to school since he was 10 years old. Noelle began making frequent visits to the school and shelter to assess his emotional, physical and educational needs. She developed strong relationships with school personnel and his caseworker to find him a safe, permanent home. As a result, Noelle identified a parent whose son was Guillermo’s best friend, who ultimately became Guillermo’s foster parent. Guillermo now resides with his friend and the family considers him one of their own. Despite being out of school for so long, due to the stability offered at his new home and the partnership Noelle formed with the school, Guillermo is thriving and will have the opportunity to graduate with his peers in a community that cares about him and a family that loves him. Volunteers are the most important resource any community organization can have, but ours are truly essential to our mission. Volunteers like Noelle provide a judge with recommendations and a carefully researched background of the child and their needs, which assists the court in making an informed decision about that child’s future. This past year, 97% of recommendations made by CASA volunteers were accepted by the judge. The work of our volunteers truly makes a difference in a child’s life. Thanks to our generous donors and 258 trained-volunteers, we could serve 352 children this past fiscal year. While we are proud of serving 11% more children with 22% more advocates, we know there is so much more to do. The number of children entering the child welfare system continues to rise substantially. More than 1,000 of our communities’ most vulnerable children living in foster care and residential facilities still need a CASA volunteer.
This year, CASA is hosting a “The Wizard of Oz” theme Red Shoe Gala, where guests are encouraged to wear red shoes to symbolize home. Dorothy’s journey through Oz can be compared with that of a child’s life — a child who faces an uncertain fate. As in “The Wizard of Oz,” the characters of the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow each play a role in getting Dorothy home safely. Please join us for great music, silent and live auction and dining on Saturday, March 24, at 6:00pm at the Cobblestone Creek Country Club (formerly Green acres Country Club) in Lawrenceville, NJ. For more info, call 609-434-0050 and visit us on the web at www.casamb.org.
On Saturday evening, March 24, 2018, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties will host our 17th Anniversary Red Shoe Gala to benefit our program serving over 350 children in out-of-home placement in our combined counties. Our gala in at Cobblestone Creek Country Club in Lawrenceville features a cocktail hour, silent and live auction, dinner and some fabulous musical entertainment. Last year’s gala was a huge success and we intend to make this year’s event even better!
All proceeds will benefit the programs of CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties. Our Red Shoe Gala focuses on “home “ because every child deserves a safe one.
As you know, CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties is an independent, non-profit organization committed to training and supervising community volunteers, appointed by the Family Court, to advocate for the best interests of children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse and/or neglect. In Mercer and Burlington Counties this past year, 258 volunteers advocated for 352 children. There are still over 1,000 children in our service area who did not receive a CASA volunteer to speak up for their behalf. With your help we can change that.
You will receive wonderful visibility and publicity for your business. We appreciate your support to ensure more children get the services they desperately need and reach safe, stable and permanent homes. Most sponsorship levels also include tickets to the gala as well as an ad in our program book. The form is included for your convenience and we welcome your reply as soon as possible to include your company in our “early bird” sponsor list which accompanies our invitation in mid-January 2018.
The Mercer Vicinage, in conjunction with the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency and the Court Appointed Special Advocated of Mercer County (CASA), will host its 10th annual Adoption Day Program on Friday, Nov. 17.
The program will begin with adoption proceedings in the ceremonial courtroom at 400 S. Warren Street, Trenton. Assignment Judge Mary C. Jacobson will begin the proceedings followed by Judge Wayne J. Forrest, who will also hear adoptions.
The late Douglas Michael Pine, adoption attorney and former state trustee of CASA, will be honored for his tireless work with Mercer County youth, and Judge Audrey P. Blackburn will be recognized for her judicial service. Judge Blackburn will then hear the final adoptions of the day. After the proceedings, adopting families and their children will enjoy a breakfast buffet and receive complementary family portraits by Main Event.
The celebration will continue at 2 p.m. at Team 85 Fitness and Wellness, 8500 K. Johnson Boulevard, Bordentown. Adopting families and their children will enjoy afternoon snacks and activities provided by Trenton Thunder, One Simple Wish, New Jersey Adoption Resource Clearing House, the Mercer County Bar Association and Team 85. The Rev. Darrell Armstrong of Shiloh Baptist Church will participate.
National Adoption Day is an annual event in which courts and communities in all 50 states come together to finalize thousands of adoptions. The event seeks to raise awareness of the importance of adoption and to recognize caregivers who have chosen to open their homes to children in need.
# # #
Although adoption proceedings are closed to the public, arrangements will be made for reporters to interview willing families after their proceedings conclude. Contact Bernadette Ernst at 609-571-4434 for more information.
The Burlington Vicinage will celebrate its 11th Adoption Day on Friday, Nov. 17 at 8:45 a.m. on the sixth floor of the Courts Facility, 49 Rancocas Road, Mount Holly.
“This is a memorable day in the courthouse for all those participating in this event,” said Assignment Judge Ronald E. Bookbinder. “We hope the program will encourage others to help children become part of loving, permanent families.”
Adoptions will be finalized for 10 children. Judges Mark P. Tarantino and Gerard H. Breland will preside over the proceedings. A luncheon for the children and their families will be held at 11 a.m. at the Funplex, 3320 Route 38, Mount Laurel. The celebration will open with comments from Judge Bookbinder and Family Presiding Judge Richard J. Nocella. Judge Tarantino also will address the attendees. The luncheon will include families whose adoptions were finalized throughout the year.
The vicinage’s Adoption Day program is co-hosted by the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency, the Court Appointed Special Advocates program, and the Burlington County Surrogate’s Office. The Burlington County Bar Foundation provided toy bears for the children. Adoption Ops, Foster and Adoptive Families Services, and the Linus Project assisted with the program.
National Adoption Day is an annual event that celebrates families who choose to adopt, while raising public awareness of the need for adoptive homes. If interested in becoming a licensed foster/adoptive parent, call 1-877-NJFOSTER.
Though adoption hearings are closed to the public, arrangements can be made for reporters to interview willing families after the proceedings. Contact Donna Mazzanti at 609-288-9500, ext. 38124 for additional information.
Terri Cardulla presented CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties with a generous grant from the Employee Giving Fund at Church and Dwight of Ewing, NJ at the organization’s fall fundraiser in Moorestown, NJ on November 3, 2017. L-R: Alison Lorenz, CASA Volunteer; Roseann Vanella, CASA Board President; Terri Cardulla, Category and Shopper Insights Manager; Katherine Carmichael, CASA Executive Director; and Deena Betze, Esq., CASA Board of Trustees.
The Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce awarded CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties a $10,000 grant for the fostering futures program to help youth on the pathway to adulthood and stability. Katherine Carmichael, Executive Director accepted the check at the monthly luncheon on November 2, 2017 from Kristin Apelget.
Mount Holly, NJ—On Wednesday, August 9, 2017, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children in Mercer and Burlington Counties Staff gathered to accept a grant of $20,000 from Beneficial Bank Foundation of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. CASA is the only organization that works directly with children from each county who have been abused and neglected and taken away from their families to ensure their safety.
Roseann Vanella, Board President, and Katherine Carmichael, Executive Director of CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties accepted the first of two grant payments which total $20,000 from Merle A. Brown, Vice President, Director of Corporate Giving and Financial Literacy with the Beneficial Bank Foundation and LuAnn Yansick, Assistant Vice President, Branch Manager, Beneficial Bank, Edgewater Park, to fund a two year resource program in Burlington County on behalf of abused and neglected children.
“This grant is essential to maintaining the safety and well-being of the 150 children we currently serve in Burlington County, and will help us to grow this number,” said Roseann Vanella, Board President of CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties. “Judges assign our advocates their most serious cases with children who have been removed from their homes because of abuse and neglect. This grant from the Beneficial Bank Foundation enables our staff and advocates to directly assist these local families in crisis. We are so grateful for their generosity.” With 743 children waiting for a CASA volunteer in Burlington County alone, CASA is focused on growing the frequency and number of training classes in 2017, and well into the future to have a CASA volunteer for each child who is in foster care. There are currently 258 active CASA volunteers assisting approximately 352 children in out-of-home placement in both Burlington and Mercer Counties.
CASA volunteers are trusted adults empowered to ensure that each child is well cared for and able to find a safe permanent home. CASA volunteers are unique judicial volunteers appointed by a judge. They attend court hearings with the child and report their findings to the judge. “It is traumatic for these children to leave their families and then have to adjust to new foster homes, new schools, new neighborhoods and often new towns,” stated
Katherine Carmichael. “CASA ensures these children do not fall through the cracks of the overburdened court and child protective systems.”
There are no prerequisites for becoming a CASA volunteer other than a desire to help children in need, being at least 21 years of age, clearing an extensive background screening and successfully completing 30 hours of training. CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties invites interested adults to learn more by attending a brief information session. Details can be found at www.casamb.org. CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties is a member of the National CASA Association, a network of more than 900 CASA programs serving children in 49 states and Washington DC.
Mount Holly, NJ—On Thursday, June 22, 2017, the Hon. Mark P. Tarantino swore in ten volunteers as court-appointed special advocates to stand up on behalf of abused and neglected children.
Family and friends gathered in the Burlington County Courthouse to watch the volunteers take an oath promising to advocate for the best interest of the child; including Roseann Vanella, Board President, CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties.
The newly appointed CASA volunteers bring the total number to 80 dedicated community members who have been trained and are advocating for foster children in Burlington County’s juvenile dependency court system. Also noteworthy among the newly sworn in CASA volunteers, was Gregory Grimaldi of Marlton, who served as a CASA board member since September 2016 and trained to become a CASA volunteer. There are currently 230 active CASA volunteers in both Burlington and Mercer Counties.
As officers of the court, CASA volunteers ensure that the children’s needs are recognized and best interests are considered both in the courtroom and in the community. They meet with the child regularly and are authorized to interview people in the child’s life such as social workers, attorneys, and teachers. They attend court hearings with the child and report their findings to the judge. “Our volunteers pledge to stay with each child until the case is closed, and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home,” said Katherine Carmichael, executive director of the CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties. “The advocate is often the only consistent adult presence in the child’s life.”
With more than 200 children waiting for a CASA volunteer in Burlington County alone, many more advocates are still needed. There are no prerequisites for becoming a CASA volunteer other than being at least 21 years of age, clearing an extensive background screening and successfully completing 30 hours of training.
The next advocate training session for CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties begins August 7th, 2017. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a CASA volunteer and the rewards that come along with serving as the voice of a child, please contact Harry Cassidy, Burlington County, 609-265-2222 or Jill Duffy, Mercer County, 609-434-0050.
The CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties is a member of the National CASA Association, a network of more than 900 CASA programs serving children in 49 states and Washington DC.