Helping Children and Youth Living in Foster Care Succeed

Every day, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children of Atlantic and Cape May Counties and the network of CASA programs throughout New Jersey recruit, train and support CASA volunteers who advocate on behalf of children and youth living in foster care. We work to ensure that these children have access to resources and services that will improve their outcomes, raise awareness of the obstacles they face and help them overcome those obstacles.

Sometimes our work feels like an uphill battle, and not every story ends with a positive outcome. Nevertheless, the success stories we see energize and encourage us. The girl who catches up academically even after losing four months of school because she moved three times in the last year. The teen who receives a scholarship even though only 2% of foster youth even go to college. The boy finally reunited with his parents after a year in care because they received the help that they so desperately needed.


These success stories are possible when caring adults are active in a foster youth’s life. With a supportive team, that includes CASA volunteers, child welfare professionals, teachers, therapists, foster families, and, the family courts, foster youth can achieve all of their hopes and dreams. This whole team is crucial to ensuring that foster youth reach their fullest potential.

As we face these challenging times, the child welfare team is even more important. Through virtual visits and court hearings, CASA volunteers and child welfare professionals are committed to keeping the focus on foster youth and making sure this crisis does not magnify the trauma already endured.

Let us remember the challenges that foster youth face every day and pledge to help them succeed.

Your role can be big or small – become a CASA volunteer, a mentor or support a child-focused agency. At the very least, join the conversation and engage friends, family and colleagues in a discussion about the obstacles facing foster youth and the ways that our community can work together to provide a support system for them.

Most importantly, understand that children enter foster care through no fault of their own and the challenges that lead them into care affect every social, economic and geographic community. No one is immune, and no one should face these challenges alone – especially a child.

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Children’s mission to speak on behalf of abused and neglected children is central to fulfilling society’s most fundamental obligation to protect a child’s right to be safe, treated with respect and to help them reach their fullest potential. For more information about CASA, visit

Serving Children Living in Foster Care amid COVID-19

This has been a crazy year – the pandemic, the shutdown, the loss of income, security, education and lives. The list of traumatic experiences is often too much to comprehend. As unbearable as our recent lives are – some of these experiences are not new to children and youth living in foster care. In fact, our current health crisis, in many ways, makes their burden heavier.

Imagine that you are a child experiencing abuse or neglect and you are removed from your home for your immediate safety. Everything that you know and love is missing. You are in a strange home in a different town – your life is shattered.

The child did not cause their removal, just as we did not cause this pandemic. Both situations, however, force us to adapt to the circumstances and trauma that it causes. Adults adjust to changes more quickly than children which is why providing a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer to a child living in foster care – especially during this health crisis – is critical.  

The support that a CASA volunteer gives is remarkable. They establish a relationship with the child and makes sure their best interests are a priority. They present well-researched, comprehensive reports to the family courts making recommendations that affect the overall wellbeing of each child. Most importantly, they ensure that the child receives the care and resources they need and helps them return to a safe home.

During COVID, a CASA volunteer can be a lifeline for children disconnected from school, friends, and their families. At the start of this pandemic, CASA volunteers quickly adapted visits to online sessions so that they could continue to see and interact with the children and help them feel connected. They make sure that family visits remain a priority and that critical needs such as groceries, technology for school, and other essential items are available to the children. Most importantly, CASA volunteers help guide the children through the trauma of the removal and the added anxiety of this pandemic.

Someday, COVID will diminish but the trauma and challenges faced by a child who is removed from their home and placed in foster care will still need the hand of a CASA volunteer to help lightened the burden. That hand can be yours.

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Children’s mission to speak on behalf of abused and neglected children is central to fulfilling society’s most fundamental obligation to protect a child’s right to be safe, treated with respect and to help them reach their fullest potential. For more information about CASA, visit

Wake Up Call

by former foster youth RG who heads to college, either virtually or in person, in the Fall.

On 2019 my life, as I knew it, was changed forever. My mother and I lived together in a motel. My father had not been in my life since I was in grade school. On that particular day when I told my mother I was gay, she told me to get out and not come back.

Just like that.


I felt numb and as the realization I was now homeless hit me, I felt scared. I walked one and a half hours to my school because I had nowhere else to go. Shortly after I decided to walk to a pizzeria and call the child welfare hotline where I had been known previously. I was picked up by a caseworker and taken to the office until a temporary placement could be found for me.

After a few weeks, I was moved to what I hoped would be my last foster home. It was at that moment I realized that I must take control of my own life if I wanted to succeed. I enrolled in high school where I graduated class of 2020. I was able to access available resources from my school, child welfare and CASA for Children, which included counseling, tutoring and guidance.

I hadn’t fully realized the extent of my resourcefulness until this time and my determination to succeed.

During the years living with my mother my grades suffered, mostly because of the negative environment at home. I had little motivation to do well in school and, in fact, the exact opposite. My mother didn’t want me to attend school for her own personal reasons and, actually, refused to enroll me at one point. Once under the supervision of child welfare, I was able to enroll in my current high school where my grades dramatically improved. For two of the last three semesters I was on the honor roll with all As and Bs.

As I reflect on my earlier years and the day my life changed, I’ve learned a lot about myself. I learned I will not let the past define me; I learned I can count on myself; I learned I am resourceful; and I learned I can accomplish most anything I set my mind to if I want it badly enough. These are the attributes I will bring to college and, subsequently, to my chosen profession of social work. I look forward to using my college training to give back to those in the community who need help.


Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Children’s mission to speak on behalf of abused and neglected children is central to fulfilling society’s most fundamental obligation to protect a child’s right to be safe, treated with respect and to help them reach their fullest potential. For more information about CASA, visit


I Want to Go Home

I know my Mom messed up, I’m not stupid. But I’m old enough to know that living at home with my Mom, even though she had her past demons, as my Grandma calls them, is still better than living with strangers. That’s what I’m going to tell the judge next week, I tell myself. I even practice it in the mirror. It’s not that I don’t like the Millers, they are very nice. But they are not Mom and besides, she told me that she is doing really well in her treatment counseling.

HtSF6H_qI’m 16, and until 6 months ago, I lived a normal life with my Mom. I went to school, Mom went to work, and at night we cooked dinner together and sometimes even watched TV. But then Mom started dating a new guy – Don. He was fine at first, nice and polite, but it didn’t take long for things to change.

It wasn’t long after I met Don, that Mom stopped going to work, and stopped caring if I went to school. No longer did we make dinner together, mostly, she was never home at dinnertime or at bedtime. I tried to stay in school and keep up a good story, but I was scared. My Mom was changing and I didn’t know who to trust. I didn’t want Grandma to worry, she was so far away, so I just held it in, until it was too late.

I heard the bang on the door. It was 3am. I knew that Mom and Don had come home, I had heard them earlier, so it wasn’t them. The banging continued, and when it went unanswered, the police came in anyway. Turned out, Don was a drug dealer and was wanted by the police, they had followed him and my Mom that night and were arresting him for distribution.

Mom got caught up in the whole mess. She was not an innocent bystander, she knew what Don was doing, she was using too and she didn’t do anything to stop him or stay away from him. She brought him into our home.

When the police saw me come from my room, they immediately took me outside and asked me if I had any family nearby. “No,” I said. So they called child welfare. That night changed my life.

I was told that I could go inside and grab a few things, my Mom was already in the cop car. It looked like she was handcuffed but they wouldn’t let me talk to her. I could hear her yelling through the door window but didn’t know what she was saying. She looked small and scared, just like I was.

I followed the police instructions and was soon introduced to Janice, the lady who was going to take me to my foster home. The next month I met Alyson, she told me that she was my CASA volunteer. I had no idea what that was, but she explained her role to me and I thought that she was nice. She came to visit me almost every week and after awhile I understood that she was trying to help me and my Mom.

The rest of these months is a blur, but I did my best to remain calm and hopeful that this would all be settled soon. CASA Alyson helped me believe that and gave me the courage to sit here today in this courtroom and tell the judge what I had been practicing in front of the mirror for that last five months.

“Yes your honor,” CASA Alyson had helped me put the right words together. “I would like to go home with my Mother. I know that she messed up, but I also know that she is better now and is ready to be my Mom again.” The judge sighed and I didn’t know if that was a good or bad thing. I looked at Alyson, and she gave me an encouraging nod. I continued, “Your Honor, I know that Mom has been through a lot, and so have I, but I believe that we can make it together, I really want to go home.” Again the judge sighed, “Marissa, I know how hard your Mom has worked to get to this point and how badly you want to go home but I am worried about your safety should Mom have a setback. Can you tell me, if I agree to sending you home, is there anyone who you can call if you need help?”

I smiled, I knew the answer to this question and I hadn’t even practiced it. “Yes, your honor, my CASA Alyson,” and I pointed to Alyson sitting right behind me.

With that, the judge gave me a smile back and said, “Well, Marissa, as long as you and your Mom continue with family counseling and your CASA will agree to be there for you if you need her, you can go home today.”

I was so happy. I didn’t know what to do. I thanked the judge and gave CASA Alyson a big hug and when I got to my Mom, we both cried happy tears, because we were finally going to be a family again.

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Children’s mission to speak on behalf of abused and neglected children is central to fulfilling society’s most fundamental obligation to protect a child’s right to be safe, treated with respect and to help them reach their fullest potential. For more information about CASA, visit

July 4th Memories

My most vivid childhood memories focus around the Fourth of July. My father would load us in the car and head to Grandma’s for a typical community July Fourth celebration – a big field with rides, games, food and of course fireworks. Luckily, I was never afraid of the loud bangs and wanted to sit as close possible, inevitably being pulled back to safety by my Mom. In those days, the men in the community set off the fireworks and I remember trying to figure out which silhouette was my father running back and forth lighting off the next round to brighten the sky.

I never knew which one was he, but I imagined him as super-human, unafraid of the flames and explosions going on around him and proud that my Dad was strong and brave enough for such a dangerous job.


These memories still bring me joy today. Joy of a happy childhood with my three siblings, joy in having a Mom and Dad who loved and provided a safe home for us, joy in being part of a community with friends, neighbors, cousins, aunts and uncles all watching out for each other. The comforts that we enjoyed were part of the time that I grew up in – the 70s – before the internet, cell phones, texting, and social media. If you wanted to talk to someone, you called from a phone attached to the wall. In you needed information you opened an encyclopedia or the dictionary. You played, usually outside, in person with kids who also knew the rest of your family. You went to the same church, the same school, the same grocery store, and celebrated and mourned together. My childhood community weaved together like a beautiful mosaic.

What would have become of me if that mosaic frayed? How would my life have changed if a tragedy or challenge had rendered my parents unable to care for us?

I understand that I am lucky to have all of the benefits of growing up in a community and family filled with love. I also know that the privileges that I enjoyed – albeit, still enjoy to this day – are a product of my upbringing, my family, and my community.

I also know that not all children have the same advantages.

Many children will never know the joy of their father’s bravery or the security of an extended family. They will not understand what it means to be part of a community that is larger than they are, or know the unconditional love that protects you when you sit too close to the fireworks.

For these children, abuse, neglect and abandonment have taught them instead of love. In place of being cared for, they are often the caregivers, tending to their younger siblings or a parent suffering with substance abuse.

But, we cannot sit idle and let their challenges define them. We must help give hope to children who have suffered by becoming mentors, coaches, and advocates.

We can still teach traumatized children love and offer support. We can guide them in ways that they may never have experienced and with that encouragement, they too can look back on their childhood with joy. Joy that someone cared for them, joy that at their most challenging time an adult stepped in and pulled them back from getting to close to the fireworks.

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Children’s mission to speak on behalf of abused and neglected children is central to fulfilling society’s most fundamental obligation to protect a child’s right to be safe, treated with respect and to help them reach their fullest potential. For more information about CASA, visit

The Inequalities of LGBTQ+ Youth Living in Foster Care

On June 28, 1969, the gay and lesbian community launched a series of violent demonstrations at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village New York City in response to a police raid. Known as the Stonewall uprising, these riots represent the foundation of the modern fight for LGBTQ rights in America.


The situation on June 28 spun out of control very quickly and tensions continued to inflame protests that lasted several nights after the initial incident. Activists groups formed out of these protests, and places where gays and lesbians could gather without fear were established. A year after Stonewall, the first Gay Prides marches took place across the country including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago. Fifty years later, just like so many marginalized groups, the LGBTQ+ family continues to confront ignorance, hate and inequality.

This struggle is particularly prevalent for LGBTQ+ foster youth.

Research shows that a higher percentage of youth living in foster care identify as LGBTQ+ youth as compared to the general youth population. While LGBTQ+ youth enter foster care for typical reasons – abuse, neglect, and parental substance abuse – many experience additional trauma associated with rejection, mistreatment, and abandonment because of their sexual orientation. Once the youth enter foster care they find a system that, besides the best intentions, subjects them to further bias and discrimination.

“I was told that foster families didn’t want a gay kid in their home, so I grew up in group homes and residential centers where I was abused sexually, physically and emotionally,” says Kristopher, who spent eight years in foster care (Foster Club and the Human Rights Council)

Protective discrimination laws and policies for LGBTQ+ foster youth are different in each state. This lack of a national standard, lead to a hodgepodge of legislation that fails to truly protect the LGBTQ+ foster population in any significant way. According to Foster Club and the Human Rights Council, only 13 states and the District of Columbia have explicit laws or policies in place to protect foster youth from discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity.

Even in New York City, where the beginning of the LGBTQ+ movement was born, Foster Club conducted a survey that found 78 percent of LGBTQ+ foster youth moved or ran away from their foster placements because of hostility toward their sexual orientation or gender identity. The same survey found that 100 percent of LGBTQ+ youth living in group homes experienced verbal harassment and 70 percent endured physical violence which leads to increased incidents of homelessness because the youth feel safer on the streets than in the institutions that are meant to protect them.

“LGBTQ youth are at greater risk of experiencing violence, and they are at higher risk of experiencing negative health and life outcomes, such as low graduation rates and mental health issues. With this knowledge, it is imperative that we support youth who identify as LGBTQ and make sure they develop in such a way that they are enriched, rather than being so disenfranchised. In child welfare, that starts with the foster care placement process, where we can surround children with supportive relationships and resources.” Terrence (Terry) Scraggins in an article for The Chronicle of Social Change, November 26, 2018

In addition to a greater instance of homelessness, LGBTQ+ youth are even less likely to achieve permanence through reunification, kinship care or adoption – further isolating, traumatizing and creating more obstacles for the youth. These challenges can lead to even more devastating outcomes for the youth including poorer physical health, mental well being, and educational outcomes.

Anytime that a youth fails to meet their fullest potential is a failure on our systems and policies that are meant to protect them. We must take greater care in standing up for and guiding LGBTQ+ foster youth so that they too will overcome these harsh inequalities and  become role models for the next generation of LGBTQ+ youth.

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Children’s mission to speak on behalf of abused and neglected children is central to fulfilling society’s most fundamental obligation to protect a child’s right to be safe, treated with respect and to help them reach their fullest potential. For more information about CASA, visit

We Stand Together


Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children stands in solidarity with the African-American community and shares the nationwide outrage over the unjust police killings of black Americans, most recently George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.

As an organization advocating for the needs and rights of children placed in foster care, we are well aware of the racial disparity and disproportionality that children of color and their families face.

Statistics show, year after year, that African-American children are over represented in the child welfare system when compared to their representation in the general population. This disparity exists for many reasons, including long-standing institutional and systemic biases.

CASA continues our commitment to dismantling these disparities by bringing Undoing Racism training to CASA staff, volunteers and other child welfare system stakeholders throughout the state; developing and implementing a diversity and inclusion plan; and partnering with our court and child welfare systems to address the issue of disproportionality. We will continue our efforts to make strides in this area.

CASA advocates for and supports the rights of everyone – African-Americans and other people of color involved in the foster care system – and we will not rest until every person is treated with fairness, equity, and respect.

We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe.” ~ Frantz Fanon (1925—1961), Psychiatrist and anti-colonial cultural theorist.

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Children’s mission to speak on behalf of abused and neglected children is central to fulfilling society’s most fundamental obligation to protect a child’s right to be safe, treated with respect and to help them reach their fullest potential. For more information about CASA, visit

A Bumpy Road Leads to a Happy Ending

Life is complicated. Life is really complicated with parents living apart, sharing custody of six kids, one works two jobs while the other is trying hard, but still self-medicating to cope with the stress. Yeah, it is complicated.

I meet Jackson on his day off. He rides up on his bike to meet me, eager to share the story of the day his children were removed from their home by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P). That was two and a half years ago.

boy with soccer ball

This is how it all started…a fight between two of the boys, landed one in the ER. A well-meaning aunt took the boy from the ER to another hospital in Philadelphia, leaving a discord between the boys’ mother and her well-meaning sister and an open door for a DCP&P investigation.

When DCP&P showed up at the home, mom was, understandably frightened. Strangers were coming into her home to investigate the welfare of her children and potentially their removal – that would frighten and anger anyone and perhaps make you not very cooperative. Which was the case for Jackson’s ex-wife. Once the investigation was complete, all of the children were removed from her care. Another aunt took in Jackson’s two girls, the two older children went to live with their biological father and a foster family takes in Jackson’s two boys.

DCP&P, CASA and the courts, work hard to keep families tighter, that is always the first choice whenever possible. Cooperation from all parties, especially the parents, is the key to ensuring reunification. Jackson understood this immediately and made sure he did everything necessary to bring his kids back home. Jackson’s ex-wife took a little longer to understand the process and the importance of her cooperation, but eventually she did, entering a recovery program for her drug addiction.

At first, DCP&P only granted supervised visits with their children in public places. Next, DCP&P allowed supervised visits with Jackson, then sleepovers supervised by Jackson.  Then Jackson’s six and 10-year-old sons returned to him.

Still, challenges existed that needed solutions. Childcare was a big obstacle, Jackson had to work, but who would watch the boys? Luckily, DCP&P helped secure affordable childcare. Jackson’s two girls were unhappy living at their aunt’s home so DCP&P granted permission to stay with Jackson’s girlfriend – a week before a court hearing. The two younger boys had trouble in school, so CASA Merv helped get them into an aftercare programs. The children’s mom continued to struggle with her addiction so CASA Merv helped her get the services she needed that would bring her kids back home.  Even transportation was an issue – Jackson and his ex-wife had to take two to three busses every week to visit their boys in their foster home.

The process was slow and difficult, but it was working and support came from all corners.

CASA Merv said, “The first time I met Jackson, he stood up in court, and clearly stated his intentions to reunite his family. I was so impressed with Jackson. We became friends.  Jackson did everything.”

In time, mom became more and more cooperative. She too, began to do what needed to reunite her family.  One by one, the children returned to their parents’ homes. Jackson has his two boys.  The others are with their mom.

Jackson finished our talk with on a positive note, “In the end, good came out. My kids never had Godparents. Through my visits with my kids while in their foster home, I came to know this wonderful couple. During a phone call, after the boys returned home, the foster parents asked if they could maintain their relationship with my boys. They asked if they could call the boys once a week and sleep over once a month to see the friends that they had met in the neighborhood. They also asked if they could be the boys Godparents.” Jackson responded to this heartwarming request with, “I’ll check with their mom.”  The kids now have Godparents and monthly sleepovers with their new friends.

Jackson said his relationship with CASA Merv continues with calls once a month to check in to say, “If you need anything at all, just ask.” Jackson said, “CASA Merv’s role was instrumental in getting my kids back home. He cared, was always there, and gave us the resources we needed.”

CASA Merv and DCP&P told the judge that this foster family has fostered many children but Jackson’s children, “are the best kids we’ve ever had, they were kind and respectful and well mannered.” As a parent, those are the best words that you can ever hear, especially with the challenges that this family faced.

We all know that life is complicated, but helping each other over the bumps in the road makes our journey together a little lighter.

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Children’s mission to speak on behalf of abused and neglected children is central to fulfilling society’s most fundamental obligation to protect a child’s right to be safe, treated with respect and to help them reach their fullest potential. For more information about CASA, visit

Caring for Children- A Short History of Foster Care

Right now 437,000 children and youth, as young as infants and as old as 21 years of age, are living in foster care across our nation due to abuse, neglect, or worse. Leaving their home is a traumatic experience, one that will affect their whole life in ways that those of us who never spent a day in foster care can ever imagine.

We may think of foster care as a modern concept, but in fact, caring for others’ children dates back to the earliest days, with references even found in ancient religious texts. Some surrogate families, in early accounts, were even compensated for looking after children who lost their parents, possibly to famine, accidents or early death.


Taking in children in these early days can be seen as act of kindness, but the earliest laws allowed impoverished children to become apprentices, often remaining in “service” until they became of age. According to, the first instance of this form of “foster-servitude” in this country was traced to a seven-year-old boy who lived in the nation’s first colony of Jamestown in 1636.

By the mid-19th century, American philanthropist and social reformer Charles Loring Brace, considered the father of the modern-day foster care movement, established the Orphan Trains and founded the Children’s Aid Society. The Orphan Trains, remarkably, relocated 200,000 abused, abandoned, and homeless children from Eastern cities to foster homes in the Midwest between 1854 and 1929 – mostly with little or no follow-up to see how the children were doing or being treated.

Slowly, federal and state government began to recognize the importance of ensuring children’s safety with their surrogate families and began licensing and approving families before placing children with them. By 1935, the federal government passed the Social Security Act which included grants to child welfare agencies and for foster home inspections, essentially establishing what we know as the modern-day foster care system.

Some key federal laws were initiated and passed after 1935, including the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment and Adoption Reform Act of 1978, the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, and the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999, to name a few. One of the biggest federal child welfare reforms, however, did not come until 1980, with the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act. This Act established procedural guidelines, including court reviews, within the foster care system.

Right in the middle of those early laws, a family court judge in Seattle Washington established the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program in 1976. While sitting as a judge in juvenile court, Judge David Soukup, “realized that there was no one in the courtroom whose only job was to provide a voice for those children. It struck me that it might be possible to recruit and train volunteers to investigate a child’s case so they could provide a voice for the child in those proceedings, proceedings which could affect their whole lives.” Judge Soukup’s founding of the CASA program, and CASA’s expansion across the country has, like many federal laws, improved the lives of the thousands of foster youth.

In 2018, nearly 40 years after the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act, child welfare changed radically again with the Family First Prevention Services Act. This Act, the most extensive and dramatic overhaul of the foster care system to date, prioritized keeping families together by providing funding, resources, services, and limiting institutional settings for youth.

If history repeats itself, we may have to wait another 40 years for major child welfare reform – and too many children need our help now.

The foster care system, and our society, look much different from the days of the Orphan Trains but the fact remains that families, just like those in the 1850’s, struggle with an array of challenges including addiction and mental health.

While foster families, the courts and child welfare professionals are critical foster care partners, individuals can also play a role in safeguarding a successful future for foster youth by getting involved with organizations that support children and families. By becoming a mentor or a CASA volunteer, donating services or goods to youth living in care, or lending a helping-hand to a foster parent or caregiver, you become part of a community whose sole purpose is providing comfort, guidance and encouragement to future generations.

Our supportive work with youth now ensures that no matter how long we have to wait for the next child welfare reform, the children and youth who need us now will not be left behind.

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Children’s mission to speak on behalf of abused and neglected children is central to fulfilling society’s most fundamental obligation to protect a child’s right to be safe, treated with respect and to help them reach their fullest potential. For more information about CASA, visit


History Of Foster Care In The United States
When Did Foster Care Start?
Act for the Relief of the Poor 1601
Orphan Train
Charles Loring Brace

Community Members Can Make Life Better for Vulnerable Children

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and our attention rightly turns to ways we can support children who have experienced abuse or neglect. According to the US Children’s Bureau, 687,000 children lived in foster care in the United States due to abuse or neglect in 2018. According to Kids Count New Jersey, nearly 500 children and youth lived in foster care in Atlantic and Cape May Counties during the same year.

For children to thrive despite abuse or neglect, resilience is the key. The most common factor in developing resilience, according to the Harvard Center on the Developing Child, is having a stable relationship with a supportive adult.

The child holding a red heart

That is where Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children of Atlantic and Cape May County steps in. We recruit, train and support volunteers who get to know the children and their families, and advocate for those children’s needs in court. Our volunteers are part of an expansive network of 93,300 volunteers across the country who care deeply about children and are working to make life better for those children living in foster care

The children that CASA serves have often been disappointed or hurt by the adults in their lives. Parental drug abuse, and the child maltreatment that is often associated with drug abuse, accounted for more than one third of child removals nationwide in 2018. For children living in these situations, they become accustomed to being over looked and it is difficult for them to trust or open up to others – even those who may be able to help them.

By developing relationships with these children and advocating for their needs, CASA volunteers can make a major impact in mitigating the long-term damage from abuse or neglect.

Although babies are at the highest risk for maltreatment, older youth are most in need of advocates. Nearly 20 percent of children in foster care nationally are age 15 or older. In Atlantic and Cape May Counties, that number is 12 percent. Experiencing abuse or neglect has long-term consequences for these youth.

The US Children’s Bureau has found that at age 17, more than one quarter of youth in foster are referred for substance abuse treatment or counseling at some point. By age 21, 20 percent of youth who were in foster care at age 17 had been incarcerated within the prior two years. Additionally, by age 21, 22 percent of former foster youth had given birth to or fathered a child and 42 percent experienced homelessness at some point.

A stable relationship with a supportive adult – like a CASA volunteer – can help children do well even when they have faced significant hardships. At age 17, 94 percent of youth in foster care reported that they had a supportive adult in their lives who they could rely on for advice or emotional support. Because of this, we continue to have great hope for these youth despite the long odds against them.

Nationwide, CASA programs serve approximately one-third of older youth in foster care. In Atlantic and Cape May Counties, 94 percent of foster youth have a CASA volunteer. Our volunteers undergo training to understand the impact of trauma on children. They advocate for services that promote healing and help children build resilience. The work CASA volunteers do is life changing, and sometimes lifesaving.

Especially now, as we are experiencing a global health crisis, foster youth need advocates. Many of our children are from vulnerable populations who will be dramatically affected by this pandemic – losing the meals they depend upon at school, missing school lessons for lack of internet, or simply increasing the anxiety in children already traumatized by their experience.

Additionally, we have to consider the children not yet assigned a CASA volunteer, or those who will enter the system while this crisis is still unfolding. We need to ensure that those children will also have the benefit of a CASA volunteer to advocate for their best interest – especially during this complex time and long after this crisis ends.

Visit to start the process now.


Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for Children’s mission to speak on behalf of abused and neglected children is central to fulfilling society’s most fundamental obligation to protect a child’s right to be safe, treated with respect and to help them reach their fullest potential. For more information about CASA, visit