Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children of Bergen County is an independent, nonprofit organization of professionals and trained volunteers who have been appointed by the NJ Family Court to advocate for children removed from their homes due to abuse and/or neglect. CASA works to ensure that needed services and assistance are made available to these children while helping to move them toward safe and permanent homes.
For children who've been abused or neglected, CASA means having a home instead of feeling lost, and being a priority instead of feeling invisible.Children with CASA volunteers are more likely to end up with their family, and according to National CASA, more likely to receive therapy, health care and education and do better in school, and less likely to be bounced from one place to another or get stuck in long-term foster care. CASA's vision is to provide a volunteer advocate for every child in need in our community. Last year, over 300 children still needed a volunteer to speak up for them.
For volunteers, CASA is a life-changing experience that makes our community a better place.CASA volunteers come from every walk of life and share a commitment to improving children's lives, a willingness to learn, and an open mind towards life experiences different from their own. Volunteers complete an interview, background checks and 39 hours of intensive training and courtroom observation. After being sworn-in by a judge, volunteers are appointed to a child or family of children and spend an average of 10-15 hours a month advocating for these children for at least a year. They get to know the child while also gathering information from the child's family, teachers, doctors, care-givers and anyone else involved in the child's life. Judges highly value CASA's recommendations which help them make informed decisions in the child's best interest.
The first Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program started in 1978, by a Judge named David Soukop in Seattle, Washington. He realized that he was making far-reaching decisions about the lives of children without hearing from the unique perspective of the child. He began looking for an alternative to relying solely on the lawyers for the child, who were not only overworked but also not especially trained for dealing with children, and the underpaid social workers assigned to their cases that have too many cases to handle. Judge Soukop decided to train volunteers from the community to independently investigate the cases and make recommendations about what was in the best interest of the child.
â€œAs a judge, I had to make tough decisions. I had to decide whether to take a child from the only home he's ever known or leave him somewhere he might possibly be abused. I needed someone who could tell me what was best for that child-- from the child's viewpoint. That's what CASA does.â€
~ CASA Founder Honorable David Soukop
News of the success of Judge Soukop's experiment spread like wildfire and CASA programs sprang up all over the United States. Currently there are over 900 CASA programs throughout the United States.
CASA for Children of Bergen County Judge Ellen Koblitz, Presiding Judge of Bergen County's Family Court, contacted the state CASA association (CASA of NJ) in the spring of 2002. She recognized the enormous need for a CASA program to begin in Bergen County as soon as possible. After conducting community outreach in Bergen County, CASA of NJ held a series of informational meetings with the goal of recruiting a steering committee to develop a CASA program that would serve Bergen County's most vulnerable children. That steering committee transformed into a founding board for CASA for Children of Bergen County in the spring of 2003.
Where We Work
What We Do
CASA works to ensure that needed services and assistance are made available to these children while helping to move them toward safe and permanent homes.