In the state of NJ, every citizen, regardless of occupation, is a mandatory reporter of child abuse and/or neglect.
If you suspect someone is being abused or neglected, please call the state child welfare hotline at 1-877-NJ-ABUSE (1-877-652-2873)
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Here are a few stories of children CASA has been able to help!
Maria is a 15 year old girl whose family was involved with the state child welfare agency since 1988 because of allegations that her mom and dad were involved with drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and neglect. Maria’s mom left the family in 1995 and her whereabouts are still unknown. Maria was taken from her dad and placed in foster care in 1997 when she was four years old because of her dad’s neglect.
Maria has spent most of her life in numerous foster placements including a shelter, a therapeutic foster home, residential facilities, and group homes, and she has had several psychiatric hospitalizations. When Patty, the CASA volunteer, was assigned to Maria she had been living in a group home for over two years. The state child welfare’s goal for Maria at that time was long term residential care because according to her records Maria had serious emotional and behavioral problems and could not thrive in a family setting.
Once assigned, Patty began to carefully review Maria’s file and noticed that Maria had an uncle, who had previously expressed an interest for himself and his wife to become more involved in Maria’s life. Patty contacted the caseworker and was told that there was never any follow through by Maria’s uncle in the past. Patty then started a dialog with Maria’s uncle and facilitated meetings between the state child welfare agency and Maria’s uncle and aunt. Once Maria’s uncle and aunt passed the screening process, Patty advocated for visitations and subsequently, overnights for Maria at her uncle and aunt’s home. Finally after months of hard work, Maria was placed with her uncle and aunt and hopes to be adopted in the next few months.
Ethan was the CASA volunteer assigned to Shaun as he was approaching the age of eighteen. Shaun found himself being removed from his parent's care because they were living in a hotel due to the fact that they were homeless. Ethan was instrumental in helping the parents fill out forms to obtain an apartment and he advocated on their behalf within several agencies for them to obtain necessities like furniture and linens.
This was an extremely difficult time for the teenager, Shaun, because not only was he separated from his parents but he was removed from his school during his senior year of high school. Shaun was placed in a foster home that was in a town quite different from where he grew up. His grades began to slip because he simply did not care what happened next. Ethan helped explain to Shaun the importance of getting an education and how this would help break the cycle that he and his parents had been in. Using his background in education, Ethan was also able to facilitate a meeting with the Child Study Team at the child's school to make sure all his education services would remain in place after first being removed from his parent's care, placed in foster care, then returned back home again.
Bonnie, a CASA volunteer, was assigned to advocate for an eight year old girl, Jessica who, along with her brother, was removed from their biological mother after it was reported that their mother had threatened to drive into a nearby river and kill herself, and her two children. The biological mother has a history of mental illness and had stopped taking her medications because she was pregnant with her third child.
Jessica and her brother were placed with their maternal grandparents. When the baby was born, she, too, was placed with her maternal grandparents. All three children have different biological fathers. By the time Bonnie was assigned to the case the goal for Jessica was to be reunified with her biological father. However, according to professionals involved with the case, Jessica reported that she did not want to be placed with her biological father. Bonnie, in addition to meeting with the child, grandparents, met with the biological father who discussed his concerns about reunification. He identified to Bonnie the barriers that he saw to reunification, which included: the grandparents turning the child against him and his new family; as well as their bad mouthing him and his family in the community.
Bonnie witnessed some of these behaviors that the biological father discussed. Additionally, Bonnie was able to obtain information from Jessica regarding how she felt about her visits with her biological father. Jessica told Bonnie that she wanted to live with her father but her grandparents told her that she should stay with them. Bonnie advocated for family therapy for Jessica, her biological father and his new family; for increased visitations between Jessica and her biological father; then visitations with Jessica and her biological father's family, and then overnight extended visits. When the Court decided to reunify Jessica with her biological father, Bonnie advocated for the continuation of their therapy, sibling visits between Jessica and her brother and sister who were still living with their grandparents; and visits for the grandparents as well. Jessica was able to be successfully reunited with her biological father while still maintaining a relationship with her siblings and grandparents due to the advocacy of Bonnie.