CASA Conversations

A Decade of Making a Difference

Dear Friends, Volunteers, Donors and Supporters,

Ten years is a long time in the life of a child. Ten years is a long time in the life of an organization as well. However, when the work is passion and the need is real, ten years can pass in the blink of an eye.  It feels like yesterday I walked in for my first day as the brand new and first Executive Director of Passaic County CASA for Children.

That day was a decade ago, on July 2, 2007. As a brand new start up organization with me as its first and only staff member at the time, this meant that July 2 was also the day CASA operations officially began.

Driven by a lifelong passion for children’s rights and child welfare issues, I had accepted the challenge of leading a startup organization with its many unknowns without hesitation.  I wrote our first grants, press releases and made contacts from a borrowed cubicle office space or my hand me down kitchen table in my first apartment. We had nothing more than some templates of brochures and policies from the state organization.  Passaic County CASA did not even own a desk or an office chair on July 2, 2007 when I began. What we did have was a dedicated and powerful Board of Trustees, a Family Court system who was immensely supportive of CASA’s operations, and a community of children in need of powerful voices.

Over the last ten years, thanks to our amazing community of supporters and volunteers, we have thrived as an organization through the startup phase and into an active continuously growing organization. There have been many days I would wonder if we would ever grow to serve 50 children in a year? 100? More than 150? Today we are an organization of 8 paid staff members, over 80 active volunteer advocates, dozens of special event and outreach volunteers and an active board of trustees serving over 215 abused and neglected children annually. (Plus we own many desks and chairs in an office of our very own now!)

We continue to grow in order to serve every child in Passaic County’s foster care system that is in need. Currently, over 300 children annually are left without an advocate due to limited capacity, but with your continued support we are dedicated to bringing this waiting list to zero.

As we embark into our celebratory 10th Anniversary year of making a difference to children in foster care throughout Passaic County, I reflect back to a young man that I have been blessed to have had known almost all of these last ten years.  He is teasingly known around the office as “Child #1” because he was the first case ever assigned to an advocate in Passaic County.  Recently he told me, “I don’t know where I would be if CASA hadn’t been assigned to my case. I would probably homeless or in jail. Instead, I have a home and people who care about me.”

We still have a challenge in front of us in order to provide this safety net to every child who is in need. On the start of our tenth year of service to children in foster care, this is a challenge I am ready to once again renew my personal commitment to and I invite you to join me. Everyone can make a difference to a child in foster care through CASA; as an advocate, a board member, a donor, a special event volunteer, an office volunteer, an intern, an ambassador, a project partner or even maybe a staff member.

When this this post is written on our 20th Anniversary, I plan to be writing about how many extra services we are able to provide to every child in foster care because we have grown so much that every child has the benefit of an advocate.  If we have been able to do this much in our first 10 years, I can only dream about what will be possible in the next 10.

Join me.  Volunteer. Donate. Get involved.

Yours in Service,
Erica Fischer-Kaslander