The Fund hosted Cocktails & Conversation on March 5, 2020 as part of our ongoing education series to inform members and friends about the work of community grantee partners. “Hidden Victims of the Opioid Crisis: Babies and Toddlers in Foster Care” featured Court Appointed Special Advocates CASA for Children of Mercer & Burlington Counties, a 2018 and 2019 grant recipient. It was the Fund’s last in-person event before the COVID-19 stay-at-home order.

Laura Wall, Executive Director of CASA, highlighted the extraordinary role played by advocates, “CASAs,” to oversee the emotional, physical, and educational well-being of foster children who are struggling to adapt to the trauma of being removed from their homes, often as a result of parental opioid addiction.

Laura was joined by her colleague, advocate supervisor Lisa Oros, and a CASA volunteer advocate and mentor, Carole Moore. Carole shared personal reminiscences as a longtime CASA who has reassured children in foster care for nearly two decades. She told a touching story of one little boy in foster care who lived more than 60 miles from his parental home.

Constantly keeping in mind that this was a child coping with a situation completely out of his control, Carole used her advocacy skills to fight for adjustments to his healthcare, transportation, and education. Her advocacy improved his outward daily life. But most importantly, Carole nurtured his inner life. She showed the boy he could love and trust her. Carole was a consistent presence as he adjusted to life in a new home without biological parents.

COVID-19 has not stopped CASA from continuing its advocacy work on behalf of foster children. As the coronavirus becomes central to New Jersey’s new reality, CASA provides uninterrupted regular check-ins with foster children and their caregivers to make sure they have food and other resources. CASA has also adapted its advocate recruitment and training efforts to an online format to ensure a pipeline of new advocates ready to take on further cases.

The Fund for Women and Girls is proud of CASA’s continuing work as advocates for children in foster care. As members and friends of the Fund, we learn together about core issues affecting vulnerable women and children in our community. Armed with this knowledge, we invest together to make a positive impact on their lives.