Seeking Men to Join Our Volunteer Ranks
With Father’s Day just around the corner, our thoughts go out to the many children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect, are currently living in foster care in Passaic County and who are without a positive male role model in their lives.
Only 6 out of the 56 current active volunteer advocates serving the abused and neglected children in foster care in Passaic County are male. These volunteers, called Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), advocate on behalf of foster youth; promoting their best interest in the courtroom, educational needs, appropriate medical care and safe, permanent housing.
Ideally, these children will avoid homelessness, teen pregnancy and substance use, and leave the child-welfare system as independent, successful and healthy young adults.
Male volunteers are desperately needed to serve the many youth in the foster care system.
Rich Rolek is one of the six men in the CASA program. Recently, Rich was asked what drew him to the CASA Program. “I was drawn to volunteer several years ago, after seeing a report on the news of a serious incident involving child abuse. I thought it was a tragic story and I wanted to do something to help if I could” Rich added, “I was attracted to the CASA program because I had a full time job and I learned through attending an informational session , that it was certainly possible to help either during the day or after work and on weekends. I knew it was important for me as a male to be a volunteer advocate for these children. I realized that as I started the CASA training program in 2011, that I was one of two men out of about 50+ potential volunteers.” Rich Rolek is making a difference and you can too!
Advocating for foster youth
Serving as a CASA doesn’t have to be daunting — volunteers come from all walks of life. They undergo 36 hours of training and are sworn in by the judge as officers of the court. They generally commit to between 10 and 20 hours a month for at least 18 months, sometimes circumstances may require a longer commitment. Overall, the goal is to be a reliable, supportive and consistent presence in the child’s life while advocating for a safe and permanent home for the child. This is especially critical for boys who are in foster care considering many come from circumstances absent of positive male role models. CASA volunteers meet with their assigned child/children, at least once a month and gets to know the people in the child’s life, such as foster parents, biological parents, teachers, therapists and attorneys. Once familiarized with the details of the child’s court case, the CASA volunteer attends court proceedings in order to advocate for the child’s best interests and ensure that the child is receiving all needed services.
In the United States, on any given day there are as many as 415,000 kids living in foster care, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. In New Jersey, there are roughly 8,097 children in foster care. In Passaic County there are over 600 children in out of home placements.
Passaic County CASA is now recruiting volunteers for their summer and fall 2016 training sessions. Interested volunteers (both men and women!) are invited to contact the Volunteer Coordinator, Margaret Curreri at 973-832- 4002, email Margaret @ firstname.lastname@example.org for information or click the link below to RSVP for an information session.