The Opioid Epidemic and Our Children

Just five years ago the United States was looking at some of the lowest foster care numbers they had ever seen; sadly, that number has been back on the rise in large part due to the opioid epidemic. According to Child Trends, around 32% of children who entered foster care in 2015 entered because of parental drug abuse. When looking specifically at the opioid epidemic, addictions aren’t always formed because of illegal uses of drugs like heroin, but sometimes after the use of legal substances like oxycodone, hydrocodone, or morphine.

Parents who are addicted to drugs often end up neglecting their children because of the drugs, whether it be from spending their money on drugs leaving little to none for their child’s needs or forgetting to care for the children while on the drugs. “Those who are using these drugs are often trying to escape their reality, and sadly that includes their children.” explained Colette Scozzafava, the Senior Program Coordinator at CASA of Middlesex. It’s not only the parents who have to deal with symptoms, more children are being born with neonatal abstinence syndrome and are having to deal with withdrawal from the moment they are born. Not to mention the children who are living with parents with a drug addiction are more likely to have sensory disorders, speech delays, and sleep anxieties, and could be in need of therapy or a specially licensed and trained foster family, says the National Institutes of Health.

As reported by the Washington Post, the influx of children entering the foster system within the past two years is largely because of the opioid epidemic. Mrs. Scozzafava explains that “often times with drug abuse parents will get better and get their children back, but then end up relapsing and the children have to go back into the system. How many relapses is too many? Especially since we currently don’t have enough resource families to take in all of the children who need homes.” In almost every state there aren’t enough foster or resource families, social workers have been overloaded with cases, and state budgets are being strained, as stated by the Washington Post.

Foster care systems all over the United States need our help.  If you are looking for a way that you can help Foster Coalition put together a list of different ways that you can help children in foster care.

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A New Beginning

When we are trying to help a child find their permanent home, sometimes it takes them far away. But that doesn’t have to mean that their CASA volunteer will stop trying to help in any way that they can. This is a story about Jamie and her CASA volunteer, Brooke.

The story starts back in 2012 when Jamie was nine years old and both of her parents passed away within six months of each other. Her grandmother lived here in New Jersey but was unable to take Jamie in, but luckily she knew a resource family close by and they were willing to take Jamie in. During the year that Jamie lived there, her and Brooke would hang out at least once a month but most of the time they ended up spending time together more often.

Then, after a year with the resource family, Jamie’s aunt who lived in Washington State decided that she wanted to adopt her! Jamie took a trip out to Washington to make sure they would be comfortable together. Only a couple of months later Jamie moved to Washington to live with her aunt. Right as Jamie’s aunt was about to start filling out all the adoption forms tragedy struck, the DCP&P (Department of Child Protection & Permanency) worker assigned to her case passed away.

Even though Jamie was no longer in New Jersey, Brooke had kept in contact and would text, call, or video chat Jamie whenever the two of them had free time. Brooke’s own daughter had just started college in Washington and so Brooke even went to visit Jamie for a couple of days. Because of this dedication, Brooke was able to help inform everyone involved of what was going on and help make sure Jamie’s adoption went smoothly.

After years in the system Jamie’s adoption was finalized this past spring, and to Jamie’s surprise, Brooke was there at her adoption in Washington! Children are more likely to excel in their life once they’re in a safe, permanent, nurturing home and that couldn’t be more true for Jamie. In this past school year Jamie was on the honor roll and part of her student council! Every child deserves to feel the kind of devotion and love that Jamie was able to find, whether it’s from a relative, a volunteer, or anyone else in a child’s life.

Unfortunately, we don’t have enough Brooke’s to help every child in need, so if you or anyone you know is interested in helping get in touch with your local CASA program to find out how you can help make a difference in a child’s life.


*This is a real story of CASA’s work with a child from Middlesex County. Names and some other identifying details have been changed in order to protect the confidentiality of the child involved.


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Reducing Barriers for Relative Foster Parents Act

The goal at CASA is for every child to be in a safe, nurturing, permanent home. The House of Representatives just made a new bill that will hopefully help us achieve this goal. The new bill will make it easier for children to get placed into a relative’s care faster than before; this new bill is called Reducing Barriers for Relative Foster Parents Act.

According to the House Ways and Means Committee many states have guidelines in place that slow down the placement of children with their relatives. This bill will give states a chance to make their rules more modern and easier for children to be placed with their relatives instead of in temporary foster homes.


One of the main reasons they are pushing for this bill is that, according to Generations United (a nonprofit dedicated to changing policies to help children, youth, and older adults), placing children with family members can result in a more reliable home placement, the children spending less time in foster care, and a more balanced life after they come of age. The hope is that with this bill children can be moved more quickly into a home with a relative where they have a higher chance of keeping their safe, permanent, nurturing home.


For more information click here.

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Monica’s Law

Lawmakers are always trying to do their best to help reduce acts like child abuse and domestic violence. Recently, the New Jersey General Assembly crafted such a bill, in hopes of decreasing the likelihood of future domestic violence and child abuse acts. Monica’s Law will help predict the future likelihood that a perpetrator of domestic violence may commit another act. This bill is named after Monica Paul, who was shot to death by her husband, who Monica had a restraining order out against.

ryancourt3lg.jpgThis new bill also has a section to help the children in those households where domestic violence acts take place. It will require a parenting questionnaire to be filled out during custody negotiations. The questionnaire will take into account all kinds of different evidence (parent’s criminal history, parent’s history of drug abuse, exposure of the child to violent or threatening behaviors, etc.) to determine whether the parent is fit for custody or parenting time with the child.

With this bill, New Jersey Assembly members are trying their best to help protect those who have suffered from domestic abuse and child abuse. For more information about this bill click here.

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8 Myths About Child Abuse

8 Myths about Child Abuse

  1. Child abuse is rare.
    • In fact, around one in every five children will suffer from some sort of abuse/neglect before their eighteenth birthday, according to the US Department of Justice.
  2. Children are mostly abused by strangers.
    • According to The Safe Child Program, over 90% of child abuse cases are by someone the child knows and trusts (parents, relatives, teachers, neighbors, etc.)
  3. Abuse only happens in low-income families.
    • There is no evidence that proves abuse only happens in a certain type of family. Race, religion, education, and socioeconomic status don’t have anything to do with abuse.
  4. Its only abuse if it’s physical.
    • Abuse can take the form of physical, sexual, emotional, or neglect. Any form of these different types of abuse are damaging to a child’s wellbeing.
  5. If the child doesn’t report it, it can’t be that bad.
    • Only one in every ten children that are abused actually report that abuse, as stated by The Safe Child Program. Often times the child can think the abuse is normal or that if they do tell no one will believe them.
  6. Good parents don’t get mad at their children.
    • It’s okay to be angry with your children, but it is not okay to hurt your children because of that anger. If you find that you are often very angry at your children and need help, The Center for Parenting Education has a lot of good information to help.
  7. If there is a reason the child is being disciplined, it doesn’t count as abuse.
    • There is a difference between discipline and abuse. Discipline is meant to teach a child how and why they were wrong so that they can learn for the future. As reported by the Child Welfare Information Gateway, physical discipline in children can often lead to more aggressive behavior in the child and may just lead the child to being submissive and fearful instead of correcting their behavior.
  8. There’s nothing that I can do to help with this issue in my community.
    • No matter where you live you can always do something to help. If you see abuse report it. The National Child Abuse Hotline number is 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). If you would like to further help the children in your community, reach out to your local CASA program to find out how to volunteer.
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How to Spot Child Abuse/Neglect and How You Can Help

Children suffering from abuse and/or neglect is all too familiar for our advocates, as all of our CASA children have suffered from some form of abuse or neglect. For others abuse is often something that is only seen on the news, and they may assume that there is no way child abuse/neglect is affecting anyone they know. In actuality, there are more than 870,000 cases of child abuse and neglect documented each year and nine out of ten times the child is being abused by their own parents/guardians. We at CASA of Middlesex would like to help inform you of the different types of child abuse and neglect and how you may be able to spot them and stop the abuse from continuing.

We are going to start with physical abuse because it is often the easiest form of abuse to spot because it will frequently leave a mark on the child. Physical abuse is defined as the intentional harming of a child by use of excessive force and/or reckless endangerment. A child suffering from physical abuse could have unexplained bruises, welts, scars or burns, different injuries within various states of healing, internal damage or head injuries, or injuries that do not match the explanation of how the child received them. An example of this could be getting a black-eye from falling off a bicycle whereas usually children would only get scrapes or bruises.

Next we will discuss sexual abuse, which is defined as engaging a child in any activity for an adult’s own sexual gratification. Some of the indicators for sexual abuse are physical injuries to the genital area, age-inappropriate sexual knowledge, a pregnancy or STD at a young age, inappropriate touching of themselves or others in public areas, extreme fear, depression, or distress.

Emotional abuse is more difficult to recognize as it can often be seen as a child “acting out” or being “moody”. Emotional abuse is not just a one-time situation, it is the systematic diminishment of a child designed to reduce a child’s self-concept to the point where the child feels unworthy of respect, friendship, love and protection, which are the natural birthrights of all children. Signs for spotting emotional abuse in a child include habit disorders (thumb sucking, biting, rocking, enuresis) or conduct disorders (withdrawal or antisocial behavior), lags in emotional or intellectual development, low self-esteem, depression or suicide attempts.

The last thing we will discuss is neglect, which is the failure of a person responsible for the child’s welfare to provide necessary food, care, clothing, shelter, or medical attention or the failure to act when these failures interfere with the child’s health and safety. Different signs of neglect include malnourishment, insufficient food or poor nutrition, missed immunizations, lack of supervision, consistent dirtiness, filthy living conditions, inadequate shelter, or constant tiredness/listlessness.

Our goal at CASA is for abused and neglected children to be placed in a safe, permanent home where they can thrive. If someone you know has one or more of these indicators the most important thing to do is to call 1-877-NJ-ABUSE (1-877- 652-2873) to report the abuse and to let a professional handle the situation. For more information on reporting Child Abuse in New Jersey, visit New Jersey’s Department of Children and Family’s website. To learn more about how you can help prevent childhood abuse visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway or Prevent Child Abuse America.

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What happens to kids without a CASA?

JohnCourt3LG.jpgChildren living in foster care have suffered trauma, abuse and neglect. They are often confused and fearful of their uncertain future. The well-intentioned systems designed to serve these vulnerable children can sometimes overlook the needs of an individual child. That’s where CASA volunteers come in.

These dedicated individuals work on the front lines with the courts, schools, healthcare providers and social services to ensure each child gets the needed help while in foster care and finds a safe, permanent home as soon as possible.

Research shows that children with a CASA volunteer spend less time in foster care. They do better in school and they are less likely to return to foster care once they leave it.

Sadly, in 2016, just 21 percent of the more than 600 Middlesex County children in foster care had a CASA in their corner. That means roughly 500 of these vulnerable children had no one adult looking out solely for their best interests.

C_MG_1427_lznhildren without a CASA are more likely to experience negative outcomes, including spending more time in foster care, struggling at school and returning to foster care because of repeat abuse.

CASA of Middlesex County is a non-profit organization that relies on the generosity of its supporters. Toast 2017, set for May 7 at 11 a.m. at Steakhouse 85 in New Brunswick, is our major fundraiser, with proceeds used to recruit, train and support volunteers to serve more children in foster care.

Please join us for a scrumptious brunch, champagne toasts and a fun afternoon with friends, while helping more Middlesex County children in foster care.

Reserve your tickets, sponsorships or ad journal today.

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