The Advocate: 2nd Quarter 2022

Lucy’s Letter

Dear Advocates,

The Division of Child Protection and Permanency, (DCP&P) has instituted a valuable and effective policy to reduce the number of children being put in foster care. This policy involves increasing services and supports to stressed families, to stabilize them before the children become ‘at risk’ and need to be removed for their own safety.  The implication of this is that it takes a higher degree of distress in a home to trigger removal, which in turn, means that our Advocates are being appointed to children who, on average, may have higher ACES and greater needs than previously.  

To meet this need, Bergen CASA has augmented our pre-service training with two additional classes so that our new Advocates have more casework experience before being appointed to a foster child. Additionally, we are now teaching the Optima database in preservice training.  Kristine Gifford has set up a separate training Optima database specifically for our new Advocates so they gain valuable experience prior to their first appointment.     

Recently staff has noticed a small uptick in the number of children being moved into foster homes. This may reflect some of the additional stresses in Bergen County such as the rising cost of living. In February 2022, Chicago University conducted an evaluation of studies that examine the impact of the economy on child welfare.  They demonstrated that; as the cost-of-living increases, as housing costs increase, as mothers and fathers struggle to find childcare –  there is a concurrent increase in incidents of child neglect and abuse. One study showed that a $1.00 increase in the price of gas in a state with 100,000 children is associated with an additional 642 child maltreatment referrals.(McLaughlin 2017) National CASA recently issued new membership standards. Amongst other revelations, we learned that the previously informal obligation for Advocates to continue to receive 12 hours of in-service training per calendar year, is now a requirement that will be monitored. 

You may have already noticed that we are supporting this with a raft of informative training opportunities. Upcoming events include Ebony Leonard from NJ Foster Care Scholars Program on May 26, at 5:30pm who will talk about scholarships and transitional planning for special education students. Additionally, on July 14th at 10:30 Jarita Walker from the Social Security Administration will give an overview of disability benefits which can apply to our parents, foster parents, and children. All these training opportunities are highlighted for you on ‘Advocates Corner’ on the Bergen CASA website along with plenty of additional offerings. 

With summer fast approaching please can you investigate your appointed child’s local activities which may well be fast booking-up? This would include local town recreation camps, accessible summer sports camps, dance classes, swim classes (note that we can connect you to the Swim America classes at Bergen Community College) art classes, or anything that will keep youth actively engaged this summer and provide them with a sense of normalcy. If you are struggling and need ideas, do not hesitate to contact your Case Supervisor – we are open to any out-of-the-box suggestions and have funds to help offset the costs. 

Thank you all for your dedication to your appointed children and for the invaluable work that you do on their behalf.

Best wishes,