Fourteen volunteers sworn in as advocates for local foster youths

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UNION COUNTY, NJ — The latest group of community members to train as advocates for Union County foster youths have officially taken their oath before Union County Superior Court Judge Lara DiFabrizio and become the newest volunteers with Court Appointed Special Advocates of Union County.

Since 2005, the nonprofit has recruited, trained, supported and supervised nearly 600 community volunteers to advocate for more than 950 such youths, protecting best interests and ensuring needs are met in the courtroom, classroom and community. Since caseworkers, foster placements and schools can change frequently, the CASA volunteer is often the only consistent, caring adult in a youth’s corner, helping ensure that already-experienced trauma is not exacerbated as a youth awaits permanency in a safe and loving home.

DiFabrizio presided over two swearing-in ceremonies via Zoom. Prior to asking each volunteer to repeat the oath “to protect, respect and report,” she shared appreciation and gratitude for the new advocates’ desire to make a lasting positive impact on youths in the community. “I like to thank CASA volunteers who take on this very important role. You do this because you want to make a difference in a child’s life and make the world a better place. The court is grateful and thankful. You have a special opportunity to seriously help a child and family live and succeed. You’re part of the village now.”

The 14 new CASA volunteers are Ana Gutierrez of Basking Ridge; Jackie Parker and Lynda Sun Lee of Berkeley Heights; Loretta Masterson and Katherine Rabiecki of Cranford; Dina Ghazi of Kearny; Janae Bunn of Linden; Julia Dranishnikov and Tamiah Chester of Scotch Plains; Philip Ross of Summit; Lila Monroe and Mark Papa of Roselle; and Robert Mallard and Roya Enayati Basu of Union. Next, each advocate will be matched to a youth or sibling set, and begin putting their 30-hour training into practice.

Anyone passionate about making a difference in a child’s life can apply to volunteer; no prior experience or special background is needed. Each volunteer undergoes a thorough training process and is supported by CASA staff throughout their work.

On being court-ordered to a case, a CASA volunteer has access to the youth’s foster parents, doctors, caseworkers, therapists and teachers and, through regular child visits, identifies and reports to the judge any concerns and needs. CASA of Union County is the only nonprofit serving as extra eyes and ears for local judges hearing cases of youths from birth to age 21 in the child welfare system.

To learn more about CASA of Union County or secure a seat in an upcoming training class, send an email to info@casaofunioncounty.org.

Photos Courtesy of Gretchen Boger-O’Bryan