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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Toast with us…

Each year, our annual brunch brings together people who care about Middlesex County children, including many prominent community and state leaders. It’s a time to enjoy a few fun hours of mixing and mingling with friends and colleagues, not to mention savoring a delicious brunch and enjoying a champagne toast of a prominent New Jersey resident who has made a difference in the lives of our children.

This year, Toast 2017 will kick off at 11 a.m. on May 7 at Steakhouse 85 in New Brunswick. We will honor Amy Mansue, president, Southern Region for RWJBarnabas Health, for her deep dedication to improving the lives of New Jersey children.

During this open-house style event, we will present a brief (we promise!) program at 12:30 p.m. We’ve added a Silent Auction this year and expect to have many fabulous gifts and services available for you to browse and bid.

Visit our online registration page to reserve tickets, sponsorships and ad journal opportunities. 

In past years, we have been thrilled to be joined by many distinguished guests, including New Brunswick Mayor James Cahill, Former Governor Jim Florio and his wife, Lucinda, Assemblyman John Wisniewski (who is now running for governor!) and other community and state leaders.

We depend on the generous support of people in the community to carry out our mission to provide every foster child with a CASA volunteer who stands up for that child’s best interests. Children with a CASA tend to fare much better than those without one. They spend less time in foster care and do better in school. Yet just one in five Middlesex County foster children have a CASA in their corner.

Please help us give more kids a CASA by joining us for Toast 2017!

Reserve your tickets today. 

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CASA helps Reya improve her health

09_CASA_071_HICASA advocate Alec’s story involved two small children; one just three years old and the other almost two years old.  The children were removed from the home because of drug use by both parents. During the time Alec started working for the case, the children were living with the maternal grandparents, the mother was living with friends and the father was incarcerated.

The older child Reya was substantially behind in her development. Alec noticed the child was not receiving sufficient therapy to overcome her speech and motor delays. Additionally, her teeth showed significant damage as a result of excessive iron she received to correct a prior condition. Alec recommended to the court that the child should receive additional weekly therapy and dental services.

The judge agreed with the recommendations. Over the approximately fourteen months that the case was active Reya showed significant improvement and is well on her way to being developmentally back on target.

When Alec first started visiting the children they wanted to have nothing to do with him. Over time, the children began to enjoy their time with Alec, running and reaching out to be picked up each time they saw him.  Alec knew he had a positive effect on their lives and that’s a great feeling for him.

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To keep Ariella’s name alive

ariellaIt’s a tale of a beautiful girl, as beautiful as a princess in a fairytale. With her blond hair and blue eyes and a rosy smile the Milltown, New Jersey girl took everyone’s heart away. She knew how to live life spreading contentment amongst everyone. Her serene smile and enthusiasm taught all how life should be celebrated. Her Uncle John said only sad would be the one who never had the chance to meet this gorgeous girl. She was Ariella Marian Hopkins, a proud owner of eleven American girl dolls and a true friend to everyone from Milltown. Shortly after graduating kindergarten, six-year-old Ariella had to leave the world due to a sudden illness. Since then, her daddy Bobby Hopkins and mommy Lisa Hopkins have been fighting to keep her smile alive.

Life was all glorious with Ariella, ever since she was born. She lived every single moment of her tiny life.  Snowy winter afternoons were never dull while riding in a small wagon with daddy. She was a born leader among friends knowing so well how to keep a strong connection. The day Ariella passed away, life stopped for everyone in Milltown. It was a nightmare that no one could leave. But the Hopkins family decided to look beyond and keep Ariella’s smile alive. They started looking for reasons to smile. “I would like to think that the world is a little less bright without Ariella in it. But then again maybe the universe and heavens above are shining like they never have before with her presence there,” said Bobby.

This positivity was something that spread quickly in Milltown. With the help of friends and family, the Hopkins family planned for a beautiful day in memory of Ariella. They came up with “Ariella Hopkins Day” to celebrate her life and beyond. Almost 700 people attended and they raised $30,000 which was divided between a scholarship to the school she loved the most, Saint Bartholomew School, and The American Legion which gives money to various organizations that benefit veterans and their children.  They also sold over 500 ‘Ariella Hopkins Day’ T-shirts to keep her name blooming everywhere. It was a hugely successful day for the Hopkins. Bobby and Lisa continued to keep Ariella’s name alive in all possible ways. Ariella’s favorite pocket park in the town was also named after her as Ariella Hopkins Little Park. “Ariella’s little sister will one day play in the same park and it will be a wonderful feeling for us,” shared Bobby. The Hopkins family wanted to make more donations and they thought about the children in foster care. They initiated a toy drive during the holidays benefiting children in foster care served by CASA programs in New Jersey. Bobby and Lisa collected almost 1,200 toys for the children as a donation and put unforgettable smiles on their faces.

The story of the Hopkins family is emotional, inspiring and a source of positivity. It’s probably the six-year-old girl who abetted her family to live life so positively.  Ariella touched everyone’s souls. The Hopkins family will continue to keep her name alive every day. Now Milltown awaits the celebration of another Ariella Hopkins Day coming in May. As Morris Dees rightly says, “What a privilege to be here on the planet to contribute your unique donation to humankind. Each face in the rainbow of colors that populate our world is precious and special.” Ariella Hopkins Day undoubtedly brings happiness through its dynamic program. Ariella and her family have taught us beautiful lessons in pursuing happiness despite struggle and in keeping a loved one’s name alive. However, CASA of Middlesex County is overwhelmed by their donation for children in foster care. Hopkins’s meaningful step was not only a tribute to Ariella but also a significance in itself.


Written By Priyanka Banerjee 




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Emma is Reunited with Mom!

casa070253-hLittle Emma’s childhood was different from others.  Having parents with mental illnesses and drug addictions meant that she faced neglect throughout her childhood. She also was on some psychotropic medication. When Emma was eight her school feared that she was being seriously neglected. Her school attendance was erratic. She was often seen to be dirty and inappropriately dressed, and she was observed walking through the woods several blocks from her home unattended. The investigation revealed that her mother stopped giving her the prescribed medication against doctor’s orders. Her mom reported having done so because she felt Emma was old enough to decide that for herself.
Emma loves to read and does so two grades above grade level. Emma was placed in the home of her father’s cousin, started attending school regularly, and exhibited a talent for art. It was CASA Advocate Rebbeca’s case.  While doing well in her resource home, Emma reported being happy to live there, but consistently expressed a strong preference to live with her mother.

When her parents lost custody of Emma, both parents had entered rehabilitation programs.  Her father regressed and was hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital. Upon successful completion of her program, the mother began intensive counseling and parenting classes. She developed a good and supportive relationship with Emma’s foster family, showed the positive results of her parenting classes, and gradually moved from having supervised visits with her daughter, to unsupervised visits, to o
ver-night visits. All of the mom’s counselors and therapists report that she has done everything that she was supposed to do and has met every goal she set for herself.

Just after Emma turned eleven she was reunited with her mother, who stays in contact with Emma’s foster family. She spent Christmas Eve with them, and Christmas Day with her mother. Emma is thriving and her mother continues to do well in her therapy.

All through the case, Rebecca spent many hours talking with mom, being supportive of her efforts, reassuring her that she was doing well, and maintaining hope that she would succeed. Also, Rebecca spent a fair amount of time encouraging her to emotionally separate herself from negative influences that would keep her from being the best mom to Emma.

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Allison Finds Daniel’s Long Lost Adoptive Home

Allison, a CASA advocate, was assigned to her case when Daniel had just turned five. Daniel was in the system for two years already at that point. He was in a home with other boys, mostly teenagers. Prior to that, he spent time in seven different foster homes. He was removed from them due to his challenging behaviors.

While reviewing the case file Allison found a letter from a former foster family. It asked how he was doing and if they could send him a package. During the first few weeks working on this case, Allison called the family and found out that they wanted to adopt this child. Daniel had been moved from that home when some of the supports he needed couldn’t be provided; this included an evaluation for possible medication and an aide for him in pre-school. The family was devastated about Daniel’s move.casa070795-h

During the next two years, while working on the case, Allison identified many concerns in Daniel’s home and began advocating for him to
move to his prior foster home. Eventually, the prior foster family was allowed to spend time with the child again and the court approved a plan allowing the child to transition back to the foster family’s  home. The plan was for this family to eventually adopt him. Unfortunately, a month before the child was scheduled to move in with his adoptive family, the child was abused in his home by an older child. It was devastating. CASA requested that the child be moved immediately and placed into the safety of his adoptive family. He was moved soon thereafter and was adopted into that family.

The family is still facing struggles. It will take time, but this child finally has a real family that is invested in his future. Without CASA, this family would never have had the chance to adopt this child. CASA’s advocacy also sparked a facility investigation related to Daniel’s temporary home and tried to ensure school services for Daniel after he moved back to his adoptive family.

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Rafael and Elise Get Ahead in School

casa05t0004c-hRafael and Elise were removed from their home when their father, Kiko, was arrested for making physical threats towards their older sister.  Kiko told the kids’ CASA Volunteer, Nicole, that their grades were poor when they lived in the Dominican Republic, but had improved since they moved to New Jersey. In order to confirm this, Nicole met with the teachers for Rafael and Elise. Nicole discovered that the children were actually struggling academically, had weekly behavioral incidents in the classroom, and frequently showed up late to school, or sometimes did not come to school at all.  Nicole also discovered that Rafael and Elise were having trouble learning and understanding English. Upon her recommendations, the judge ordered that the children be evaluated for special education services and receive tutoring after school. The judge also encouraged Kiko to improve his parenting skills through classes. Not only did Nicole ensure that the kids had a fair shot in school, she also opened Kiko’s eyes to the importance of communication with his kids, and helped them grow stronger as a family.

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