Need for CASA
 

During the course of one year there are over 400 children from Bergen County in the foster care system.   These children are served by state child welfare workers (DCP&P- Division of child Protection and Permanency) from two separate offices.  A DCP&P worker’s caseload can be anywhere from 10-20 families.  In addition these children are represented by an attorney called a Law Guardian from the Office of Public Defenders.  Each Law Guardian has a caseload of anywhere from 50-100 children.make a difference

 

Unique to CASA, is that volunteers are assigned to only one case; either one child or one family of children at a time.  This allows the volunteer to devote an enormous amount of time to that one case so that the child does not slip through the cracks of the judicial and/or child welfare systems.  These volunteers advocate in court for the children’s best interests – ensuring that they get the services they need, that they are not bounced from placement to placement, and that they reach permanency either with their biological family or through adoption as quickly as possible. In short, the CASA volunteer is an open-minded and unbiased voice for the child in the court process and a consistent and caring person in the child’s life.

 

Success of CASA
 
Investing in CASA helps children AND saves the state tax dollars by improving the effective handling of cases for abused and neglected children in both the judicial and child welfare systems.  CASA volunteers help better protect the best interest of children in foster care by:
 
  • streamlining the investigative and information gathering process,
  • improving decision-making for children by making sure judges have all the information necessary in front of them before making rulings,
  • enhancing communication and coordination among the various agencies and individuals touching children’s lives, and
  • acting as an independent advocate for the best interests of the individual child.


    Since CASA advocacy is community based, CASA volunteers understand the strengths of their community, the services available there, and how to best access those services.  Due to the fact that CASA volunteers serve only one child or family at a time, they often spend more time working on behalf of the child than any other professional.  Specifically, CASA volunteers:
     
    • help locate relatives
    • monitor the child’s educational, medical, and mental health needs and ensure those needs are being met
    • informally mediate conflicts and work to achieve consensus among people involved in the child’s case
    • identify specific needs of the child and family and advocate for those needs to be met in a timely and cost-effective way
    • help to ensure that services provided are more effective and targeted to meets the needs of the individual child and/or family


      A Survey of New Jersey Family Court Judges showed that they found CASA volunteers to be highly effective in advocating for the best interests of children, monitoring their cases, and preparing information for the court.  The judges felt strongly that the personal knowledge CASA volunteers have about the children they serve is beneficial to the court’s decision making and those children and families are better served because of CASAs involvement.  A similar survey of judges nationwide indicated that they are likely to assign CASA volunteers to their most difficult and complex cases, and “almost always” incorporate CASA volunteers recommendations into their Court Orders.
       
      Since 2003, when CASA for Children of Bergen County first opened, CASA volunteers have advocated for over 230 children.  With the assistance of a CASA volunteer, 145 out of the 230 children have left the foster care system.  Of those 145 children, approximately 20% matured into adulthood, 30% were reunited with a biological parent, and 50% were adopted or placed with a legal guardian.