Aging Out Youth Seminar

CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties held its annual Aging Out Youth Seminar in November 2018. The event was chaired by Simone Jarvis, an advocate supervisor from our Burlington office. The seminar focuses on the 14-21 year old population of youth in the child welfare system. For our 2018 event, CASA collaborated with the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, Mercer County Children in Court, Burlington County Children in Court and Rutgers University Child Advocacy Clinic to offer a program that familiarizes youth with resources and services to establish them on a path toward a healthy and productive life.

We were able to offer some exciting new services and events this year by partnering with the Burlington County Emergency Services Center, New Jersey Credit Union League, Willingboro ABCO Federal Credit Union, Carlucci’s Waterfront Restaurant and Mount Laurel Wegmans.

The 2018 conference covered such topics as forming healthy relationships, navigating legal documents, post-secondary planning, and employment skills. This fiscal year there was Reality Fair to help with budgeting before stepping into the “real world” and a panel of experts to answer our youth’s questions about education and employment. There was also a provider fair with seventeen vendors to assist our youth on a variety of topics.

We would like to extend our most sincere thank you to all who helped make this year’s event a great success! Please click on the logos below to learn more about our partners. We look forward to working with everyone in November 2019!

 

 

 

Human Services    

 

 

 

                                                                 Sheriff’s Department       

 

 

 

CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties Explores Training on the Nurtured Heart Approach to Improve the Well-being of Children in Foster Care

CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties is making plans to introduce new  training courses available to its 248 trained adult volunteers by sponsoring Laura Fitzgerald, Ph.D., Director of Training and Evaluation to complete The Nurtured Heart Approach (NHA). More than a parenting or educator behavior management strategy, NHA consists of a set of strategies that assists children in further developing their self-regulation and has been effective with children of all ages, especially those with behavioral challenges.  It focuses on transforming the way children perceive themselves, their caregivers and the world around them. The method increases the child’s self-esteem, methodically, consistently and effectively and is seen as an important resource for children coping with a range of addiction, abuse and abandonment issues.

The NHA training is part of a large multi-year $12 million Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMH) grant program awarded to the New Jersey Department of Children and Family Services (DCF) that is transforming the practice of over 4,500 out-of-home treatment staff, 700 care management staff and at least 9,000 parents and caregivers. Howard Glasser is the creator of the Nurtured Heart Approach, as well as the Founder and Board Chairman of the Children’s Success Foundation.  Training is underway across the 21 counties in New Jersey and CASA for Children in Mercer and Burlington Counties is exploring how best to incorporate the NHA strategies to increase the well-being of the 400+ children we serve in our counties.

To view videos about the successful implementation of the Nurtured Heart Approach please visit: https://childrenssuccessfoundation.com/greatness-profiles/

CASA Reinforces Protecting Our Kids Across 19 Towns for National Night Out

In a strong showing of support for safe kids and safe communities, CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties mobilized volunteers, staff and trustees to participate in the 2018 National Night Out across 19 towns on August 6 & 7.  The annual event, organized by police departments on the first Tuesday of August, offer CASA a chance to connect with thousands of neighbors in a single evening to recruit more volunteers to speak up in family court on behalf of children who have been removed from their homes because of abuse and neglect.

This marked the first year that CASA launched the outreach event on a large scale.  Close to 40 volunteers – armed with brochures, clipboards, colorfully painted signs and large cut-out “cardboard kids” – shared their passion and commitment for an organization that depends on hundreds of volunteers who provide consistency for children languishing in the family court system.

The concept of getting out a “Call for Volunteers” germinated from a meeting with Senator Troy Singleton, who represents the Seventh Legislative District in the New Jersey Senate and his introduction to the Burlington Police Chiefs Association.  “We appreciate the wonderful introduction to the Police Chiefs Association from Senator Singleton. We look forward to strengthening our partnerships with our police departments across Burlington and Mercer Counties and our involvement in National Night Out is a great beginning. CASA also has many dedicated advocates who are retired police officers and we are looking to grow these numbers this year.” stated Katherine Carmichael, Executive Director, CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties.

CASA participated in these Burlington County towns at National Night Out:  Bordentown, Burlington City, Evesham, Lumberton, Maple Shade, Medford, Pemberton, Westampton and Willingboro.  CASA participated in these Mercer County towns during National Night Out: East Windsor, Ewing,

Hamilton, Hightstown, Lawrence Township, Princeton, Robbinsville, and West Windsor.  CASA reached across the border to also participate at National Night Out in Morrisville, PA.

See our National Night Out Gallery for more photos.

Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority at Princeton University Donates Winnings from Powder Puff Tournament to CASA for Children of Mercer & Burlington Counties

Photo of the Kappa Alpha Theta team (with a few friends/coaches) which won $300 for CASA! Thanks to the team and Captain Delaney Kerkhof ‘18 (bottom row, in the orange shoes).

For more than 25 years, the national philanthropic project of Kappa Alpha Theta and Kappa Alpha Theta Foundation has been Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).  Both college and alumnae chapters host events throughout the year to support their state and local CASA organizations.

Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority gives to CASA in many ways:  As thoughtful advocates, committed volunteers and generous donors.  Every year the Princeton Panhellenic Council puts on a Powderpuff tournament between the three sororities at Princeton University:  Kappa Alpha Theta -“Theta”, Pi Beta Phi, and Kappa Kappa Gamma. The prize is $300 to be donated to the winner’s philanthropy partner.   Theta has dominated in recent years, and 2018 was no different!  The women of Theta were proud to compete for CASA and even more proud to bring home the win!  CASA thanks Kappa Alpha Theta for  their generosity and competitive spirit!

Statement Regarding Separation of Children and Parents During the Immigration Process

For nearly 40 years the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (National CASA) has advocated for the best interests of children who have experienced abuse or neglect. One of our guiding principles is that children are better off when they remain with their families of origin if safely possible.

We also know the long-term effects of trauma that children experience when they are separated from their parents, which are most often detrimental to their well-being and can have long-term negative impact.

While CASA programs and volunteers work in family or juvenile court systems, not the federal court system, we support best-interest advocacy for all children. We have been deeply concerned about the family separations at the Southwest border and thank those who have spoken out on behalf of these children. We join with these voices.

If children involved in immigration proceedings become involved in family or juvenile court, we urge the appointment of a CASA/GAL volunteer to advocate for the child’s best interest and help the court make the most well-informed decision in these tremendously important matters.

We ask our nation’s legislators to carefully consider the impacts on children when they address immigration legislation so that no child is subjected to further trauma.

View PDF version

Church & Dwight Employees Volunteer Day

CASA welcomed 15 employees from Church & Dwight in Princeton for a fun afternoon of volunteering to brighten the lives of children in the foster care system. The Church & Dwight volunteers chose CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties during a “week of service” to help kids in the local community who are in need of essential items and services.

The enthusiastic volunteers who are chemists or technicians by profession, divided into small teams to create a dozen “no sew” fleece blankets for CASA foster youth who are often shuffled between housing or residential facilities with very few possessions.  The “no sew” blankets were created in bright patterns and presented to the CASA Staff who will distribute them to the youth from our service area of Mercer and Burlington Counties.  The fleece blankets represent hope and happiness for children who have many challenges as they move through the family court system.

CASA has many ways for people across the community to get involved helping CASA serve more foster children who need a caring adult to advocate for their best interests. In June 2018 Church & Dwight Employees volunteered their time at CASA in Ewing to create handmade blankets for youth in our programs.

Appreciating CASA’s Compassionate and Dedicated Volunteers

Katherine Carmichael, Executive Director, CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties and Phyllis Kepner, CASA volunteer and first recipient of the Eileen Fralinger Service Award.

More than 60 volunteers, staff, family court judges and board members attended the 2018 Burlington County CASA Appreciation Awards dinner at Casamari in Burlington, NJ on May 15.  CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties is celebrating the volunteers with years of service pins and certificates.  This year a special service award was established in memory of Eileen Fralinger, a dedicated CASA volunteer who passed away in November 2017.   Eileen’s daughter Erin Fralinger and sister, Lorraine Reilly accepted the plaque in her memory.

The recipient of the First Annual Eileen Fralinger Service Award was presented to Phyllis Kepner of Burlington, NJ.  Phyllis has been an advocate for four years and has advocated on two cases. Her last case lasted most of the time she has been an advocate given the complicated situation her children were facing. On her case, Phyllis played a big part in finding her children’s forever home. Phyllis has also served the organization by assisting at community recruitment events and being part of the Advocate Committee. Phyllis is very passionate about helping

Several of CASA’s Burlington Staff at the 2018 Burlington County CASA Appreciation Awards dinner (L-R): Renée Paci, Director of Programs, Ines Ramirez, JD, CASA Supervisor, Jade Pollock, CASA Supervisor, Harry Cassidy, Advocate Recruiter.

the children she serves and will thoroughly investigate each aspect of the situation until she has all the answers. She is someone that will be involved in her children’s life as long as they wish, and have received support from her even after her role as CASA has been done.  Phyllis is an inspiration to all who know her.

Voice of Business Awards Reception and Ceremony

On April 30, 2018 CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties received the Community Enrichment Award at the Voice of Business Awards Reception and Ceremony sponsored by the Burlington Regional Chamber of Commerce. Pictured here (L-R): Jill Ross, Vice President/Market Director Beneficial Bank; Roseann Vanella, President, Board of Trustees, CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties; Katherine Carmichael, Executive Director, CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties; Sandra Sciacca, Chairperson, Voice of Business Committee; Dennis Devery, Vice President Planning and Research, Thomas Edison State University; Kristi Howell, President/CEO, Burlington County Chamber of Commerce.

CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington County was the 2018 recipient of the Community Enrichment Award at the Voice of Business Awards Reception and Ceremony on April 30 at the Merion in Cinnaminson, NJ.  This award recognizes a non-profit organization or agency that makes Burlington County a better place by making a positive impact on the lives of Burlington County residents.  The recipient demonstrates specific examples of its far-reaching commitment to the community.  Katherine Carmichael, Executive Director, CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties accepted the award on the organization’s behalf.

Pinwheels for a Purpose

CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties planted pinwheel gardens this spring to highlight the children in out-of-home placement who have a CASA volunteer speaking up in their best interests. The pinwheel gardens are part of a national movement to highlight the thousands of children across the Nation who are in foster care at any given time.

A Pinwheel Garden was “planted” at The College of New Jersey by CASA Staff to illustrate the children who have a CASA volunteer compared to those who still need a CASA volunteer. The number of children who need a CASA volunteer far exceeds the number who currently have a CASA to speak up for their best interests.

 

A Pinwheel Garden was “planted” at the Princeton Pike Corporate Center by CASA Staff and Friends with 420 red pinwheels to illustrate the children in foster care for Mercer County as of June 30, 2017.

2018 Mercer County Advocate Appreciation Awards

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.