March is a month when the topic of luck frequently comes up. Whether it is hanging up shamrock décor or wishing someone “Luck of the Irish,” this is a month when people from all backgrounds do what they can to ensure the months ahead come with a bit of success.
For children in foster care, "luck" becomes a much more serious matter. Luck can have a big role in dictating a child's experience while in foster care and throughout adulthood. Through no fault of their own, entering foster care changes a child's life. Statistically we know that 30% of boys will end up incarcerated before the age of 21 and 77% of girls who reach adulthood without finding a permanent home will become pregnant before the age of 24.
But some children in foster care will get lucky, and a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) will come into their life. These volunteers make a measurable impact through their advocacy. Nationally, children without a CASA spend an average of eight months longer in care, compared to children with a CASA. Even after permanency is achieved for a child in foster care in New Jersey, approximately 13% of children will re-enter the foster care system. Among those with a CASA in Northern New Jersey, however, that re-entry rate drops to 3%.
In an ideal world, a child wouldn't have to get "lucky" for this to be their future.
In FY 2017, Passaic County CASA had 97 active volunteers who served 212 children. That same year, 583 Passaic County children were placed in foster care, meaning that only 36% of children were served. While 212 children is a lot, we at Passaic County CASA never forget the children we aren’t able to help. They have the odds stacked against them. The saddest part is that it doesn’t have to be that way.
Our shortage of CASA volunteers is entirely dictated by two factors: the number of individuals willing to volunteer and the funds it takes to recruit, train, and supervise them. Being a CASA volunteer is a commitment, and we understand that not everyone is at a place in their life where they have 10-15 hours a month to give back. We also know many people don’t have disposable income they can donate to charity. But for everyone who does have 10-15 hours a month, or a few extra dollars they can contribute to a worthy cause, we would love to hear from you. Because no child's future should depend on luck.
 Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago - Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth Outcomes at Age 26 (2011)
 Cynthia A. Calkins, M.S., and Murray Millar, Ph.D., “The Effectiveness of Court Appointed Special Advocates to Assist in Permanency Planning,” Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, volume 16, number 1, February 1999.
 Center for the Study of Social Policy, “Progress of the NJ Department of Children and Families”, July 19, 2017.
 CASA NJ Internal Study 2014-2016