Simone Biles Leading Next Generation of Women

Many Olympics viewers are very familiar with 21-year-old Simon Biles. She was the leader of the U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team and has won NINETEEN Olympic and World Championship medals. She remains unforgettable and inspirational to many.

Don’t get us wrong though, Simone had a very rough start like many of us do. She and her sister, Adria were born to their mother struggling to stay afloat with drug and alcohol addictions.  They were soon taken into custody by foster care at only three years old where they “bounced around” as Simone called it during her CNN interview. She went from family to family, feeling unwanted and ignored. Simone was another child slipping through the foster care systems cracks.  Her Olympic gold medals were years away.

It wasn’t until they turned six that they were adopted by a very loving pair: their grandparents. Being adopted into this loving pair’s life, she finally felt as though she was a person that mattered and soon found her passion.

She now uses her platform of being one of the top gymnasts in the world to voice her feelings about the foster care system she had to endure. To put it her way, “there are nearly 400,000 children and youth in foster care…that is 400,000 talents waiting to be discovered.” There are almost half a million of our country’s children in foster care that are just waiting to find the home to which they will belong to.  That is half a million of our country’s children that haven’t gotten a chance to show the world or families how much they have to offer and a whole new perspective.

You never know, the next foster child in line at your local foster care could take her experiences and wisdom and become the next leader of a well-known humanitarian cause.


Cheryl Ricci

Guest Blogger



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10 Ways to Help Foster Children

Hearing about the struggles of children in foster care can be heartbreaking, but not everyone has the resources to become a foster parent. Fortunately, there are many other ways to make a difference!

Here are some actions to help a child in need:

  1. Become a Court Appointed Special Advocate – CASA volunteers advocate for the safety and well-being of children in foster care and work to ensure that they are placed in a permanent, loving home.
  2. Become A Mentor – Share your wisdom and friendship with a deserving child!
  3. Offer Advice to Youth – LifeSet Network aims to provide a support system to those aging out of foster care, and embarking into early adulthood.
  4. Offer Pro Bono Services – If you have a profession that can be of help to foster children, offer your services pro bono.
  5. Donate a Laptop – Foster children often aren’t able to afford necessary items like laptops when they go to college. Help put a worthy student on the path to success!
  6. Donate Items to a Foster Care Drive – It is important for a child to have something to call their own. Donate new toys, school supplies, and clothes at a foster care drive.
  7. Grant a Wish – Make a dream come true for an underprivileged child!
  8. Help Fund Grants – Children in foster care often lack access to extracurricular activities. Grants provide them with opportunities to become well-rounded students!
  9. Send A Care Package – Many former foster children face tremendous challenges that their peers don’t, including the lack of social support and lack of a familial safety net. A care package can provide essential support for a struggling young adult.

These are just a few ways in which you can have a positive impact on the life of a foster child. Conduct a quick Google search for more great ideas to help a child in need!

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You’re not alone

Often when children end up in foster care they feel left behind and as though no one really cares about them. José was one of those children. After being removed from his home due to neglect by his parents he felt as though he didn’t matter to anyone. This isn’t uncommon for kids in his situation. Luckily, CASA volunteers like Amanda can be there to help children like José.


One day while Amanda was visiting with José, he was asking her questions about what she does for a living and when he found out that working for CASA wasn’t her job he was very confused. José didn’t understand why Amanda was helping him if it wasn’t part of her job. Amanda explained to him that she was a volunteer and that she didn’t get paid when she came to visit him, she was only there to help him and advocate for him because she cares about him. When José heard her response he was stunned, he couldn’t believe that a stranger would give up their free time just to help him.

It is important for foster children to feel as though they are important to someone and, regrettably, some children in foster care get overlooked because there aren’t enough CASA volunteers, mentors and supportive adults available to help all the children who need it. If you or someone you know would like to help and be one of the people who help remind foster children that they aren’t alone, volunteer at your local CASA program.


*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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What does a CASA volunteer do?

When Court Appointed Special Advocates try to explain to their friends and family what they do it can often be involved, because what, exactly, does it mean to be an advocate for a child? The dictionary definition of advocacy is the act of supporting or recommending, so how does that help these children? Our advocates mainly have one thing in mind, helping the child find a safe, permanent home. Some of the key aspects of that work are listed here:

  1. Gather Information – it is important for the volunteer to know everything about the children involved in their case so they research documents and records, and interview family members and professionals that are in the children’s lives.
  2. Document Findings – the volunteer creates a written report of their findings for every court hearing.
  3. Appear in Court – volunteers show up in court and advocate in the child’s best interests.
  4. “Be the Glue” – the volunteers are the connection between all the individuals and organizations in the child’s life.
  5. Recommend Services – ensure that the child is receiving all the help they need in their health and education.
  6. Monitor Case Plans and Court Orders – volunteers help make sure that all plans are being followed and mandated review hearings are being held.

This may seem like a lot, but all of it boils down to making sure the child has a safe, permanent, and nurturing home. If you would like more information visit the CASA website to decide if being a volunteer is right for you.

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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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