About Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem Counties
Lift up a child’s voice, lift up a child’s life
The mission of CASA of Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem Counties is to support and promote court-appointed volunteer advocacy so that every abused and neglected child can be safe, establish stability, and have an opportunity to thrive.
CASA of Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem Counties will provide an advocate for every child in placement, decrease the reentry rate by collaborating with community partners who focus on the child’s family wellness, confidently provide recommendations to the court as to a child’s permanency plan, and improve every child's educational outcomes.
Concerned over making decisions about the lives of abused and neglected children without sufficient information, a Seattle judge conceived the idea of using trained community volunteers to speak for the best interests of these children in court. So successful was this Seattle program that soon judges across the country began utilizing citizen advocates. In 1990, the U.S. Congress encouraged the expansion of CASA with passage of the Victims of Child Abuse Act. Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem Counties, Inc. (Vicinage XV) opened its doors to Cumberland County on July 1, 2004, and has since expanded to include Gloucester and Salem Counties, achieving its goal of serving the entire judicial vicinage. In 2015, there were 1291 children reported under the Division’s care. We are currently serving over 240 children.
CASA of Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem Counties trains volunteers called “CASA advocates” who are appointed by judges to watch over child abuse victims. Advocates make sure that these children do not get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system and help victims find safe and permanent homes as quickly as possible. CASA advocates stay with each child until their case is closed and the child is placed in a safe and permanent home. For many victims of child abuse, their CASA advocate is the only adult with a consistent and caring presence in their lives.
- Double the number of children the program currently serves.
- Implement the National CASA Educational Advocacy Program to help child abuse victims overcome these obstacles. By implementing this program, CASA of CGS will be providing the CASA advocates with the tools, knowledge, and ability to take an active role in ensuring that the educational needs of child abuse victims are met and that all children receive an education that will maximize their potential and maintain educational stability for the child.
- Recruit at least 50 new volunteers to be trained and equipped to provide quality advocacy for the expected influx in referrals received from the court. Recruitment will increase through added information sessions, a strategic social media plan, and consistent outreach development.
Major Accomplishments to Date
- Increase of 60 children this Fiscal Year.
- Implementation of Peer Coordinator Model, creating an incredible amount of accolades and acknowledgement from the Superior Court Family judges on the quality of the content and recommendations made on behalf of the children by advocates with peer coordinators. Advocates with peer coordinators are also more willing to take another case, thus increasing the program’s retention rate.
- Growth in a strengthened relationship with DCP&P, the local office managers and resource development specialists, which provides a seamless experience for the volunteers during their investigations.
Amanda is an 8-year-old girl who has been traumatically moved 7 times in her young life. After numerous placements, hope of adoptions, and a seemingly endless supply of letdowns, her chance at making it out of the system, didn’t look promising. Amanda’s CASA advocate moved right alongside of her to each new home, making sure she was cared for and didn’t feel alone. The CASA advocate also helped to facilitate the final adoptive placement, attending bi-weekly meetings with the DCP&P team and Family Team Meetings with the new family. Most recently, the advocate attended Amanda’s 8th birthday party, a major life event for this little girl as it was her big entrance to the family with many aunts, uncles and cousins in attendance. Amanda was noticeably overwhelmed and anxious. She curled up next to her CASA advocate, lifted the CASA’s arm up over her and leaned as close as she could. She looked up at the CASA and said, “I’m happy you’re here. You make me feel safe.” Without this CASA, Amanda would’ve fallen victim to the foster care system, continuing to bounce from home to home, without a consistent, caring adult to provide a sense of safety and permanency.