Not all superheroes wear a cape. Some wear ordinary clothes but still perform mighty deeds. Take Daniel Reynolds, a volunteer with CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties, who has been a hero to many children removed from their homes due to abuse and/or neglect.

As an Advocate, Reynolds is sworn in by Family Court and assigned to cases under a court order. “I advocated for three siblings who were to be adopted by the couple with whom they had been living. The adoption was dragging on and on. We alerted the court to the delay and the effect that it was having on the children. Faced with the facts, the court reacted quickly and monitored progress monthly until the adoption was complete.” This past year more than 97 percent of recommendations made by CASA volunteers were accepted by the court.

Over 1,300 children in Mercer and Burlington Counties pass through the foster care system because of abuse and neglect each year. Family Court judges make critical, life-altering decisions about the children’s futures and need current, accurate information to make decisions.

This is where CASA steps in. The name says it all: Court Appointed Special Advocates.

Katherine Carmichael, executive director, stresses: “Volunteers are the most important resource any community organization can have, but ours are truly essential to our mission. Our mission is to train and supervise community volunteers to advocate for the best interests of children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse and/or neglect.

“Our dedicated volunteers strive to ensure the emotional, physical, and educational well-being of these children while they reside in foster homes or residential facilities. The ultimate goal of our volunteers is to help establish a safe, stable, and permanent home for each child we serve. The court order gives our advocates access to all the child’s confidential records and allows other professionals involved to cooperate with the CASA volunteer. We have the power of the courts behind us.”

Independent research has demonstrated that children with a CASA volunteer at their side are substantially less likely to spend time in long-term foster care and less likely to reenter care. Seventy-eight percent of the cases that closed this past year resulted in permanent placements. Stability lets the children do better in school, which only enhances their chances later on.

Ms. Carmichael emphasizes “Last year 258 trained volunteers served 352 children. However, the number of children entering the child welfare system continues to rise substantially. We need to reach 25 percent more children in 2017 and are seeking more volunteers to serve as CASA volunteers.”

It’s good to have a hero by your side and, for the kids of Mercer and Burlington counties, CASA is there. To find out more please visit www.casamb.org or contact Jill Duffy by e-mail: jduffy@casamercer.org or call: 609-434-0050.

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