Rooted deep within the membrane of the United States, is its unique and inspirational origin as one of the first countries to be founded on a set of ideals and beliefs, rather than claims to a specific piece of land or genetic heritage. Framers Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Ben Franklin, and so many others, envisioned a nation where people from all walks of life could live side by side and prosper.

In the nearly 250 years since the Declaration sailed across the Atlantic to King George, America has emerged as a leader in spreading these noble ideas, including the immortal rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So, while the 4th of July is and should, be a celebration of the beautiful experiment that is the United States, it should also be a time of reflection and recognition, that there are members of our society who struggle to attain those inalienable rights laid out by our forefathers.

In Bergen County, NJ, alone, there are approximately 5000 children involved in some capacity with the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P). Of those 5000, around 500 have been removed from their homes. In a time when they’re at their most vulnerable, it is essential that their best interests are represented. Bergen CASA’s mission, is to do just that.

After they’re interviewed and trained, CASA volunteers examine every detail of their child’s case, from minute to complex. They work with case workers, teachers, law guardians, psychiatrists and everyone in between. By the time they’re in court, making recommendations to a judge, they possess the most objective and nuanced perspective in the room.

What’s more is that CASA volunteers are in it for the long haul. A child in foster care likely isn’t accustomed to the luxuries of constancy and dependence that so many of us take for granted. CASA volunteers are a permanent fixture in a foster child’s journey and so, they offer a welcome change of pace to a life filled with so much uncertainty.

For Bergen CASA to continue to play its part though, it is constantly in search of new volunteers. Of the 500 aforementioned children removed from their homes, CASA only has enough volunteers to assist about half of them. So, while every child is provided with a case worker, law guardian, etc., there are still often gaps, even craters, that are left unaccounted for. CASAs fill in those craters, making the struggle of their child a little easier to manage.

This week fireworks will explode in gloriously whimsical, kaleidoscopes of color. Beneath the cascading embers, waves will crash along the shores where thousands of people will enjoy comforting food and even better company. Such celebration is merited, make no mistake. However, with such celebration must also come the dedication to uphold the values set in place more than two centuries ago.

In the words of Fredrick Douglass, “the Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation’s destiny; so, indeed, I regard it. The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost.” These words come from a time when slavery was at its peak and so they illustrate the disconnection Douglass himself, felt from the United States – especially on the 4th of July. However, Douglass also communicates hope in his letter, encouraging that following the declaration as it was written, will result in the equality and freedom America claims to offer. Again, there’s still so much work to be done.

CASA does its part by fighting to bring our most vulnerable and neglected children out of society’s margins and into the forefront. So, please consider volunteering and becoming a positive agent for change in the lives of children who need it most.

 

 

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