NJ’s CASA Network Helps Children Thrive During Pandemic

As New Jersey health officials visibly battle the COVID-19 pandemic within state borders, another public health emergency could emerge: increased rates of child abuse and neglect. Risk factors for child maltreatment soar during times of crisis because our sense of normalcy is challenged. With COVID-19, daily patterns of activity have been interrupted due to social distancing protocols and necessary “stay at home” requirements. When parents and their children are cooped up together indoors over extended periods, patience is tested and tempers can flare for even the most stable of families. Uncertainty about the economy and real or potential job loss exacerbate already heightened tensions within the household. Increased rates of child abuse are highly correlated when fear, anxiety, and social isolation are combined.

For children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect, these dangers are exacerbated and the risk heightened.  These children have already suffered trauma from their abuse or neglect as well as from the removal from their primary caretakers.  Many have special medical, educational, and behavioral health needs, making it even more challenging for resource families during this time of stress and isolation.  Now, more than ever, these families need additional supports and outlets for their concerns.  Now, more than ever, these children need to know that they are safe and well cared for.

All 14 CASA Programs throughout New Jersey are rising to the occasion with initiatives and programs to address these challenges successfully with volunteer advocates and community partners. CASA volunteers and CASA programs are stepping up during this pandemic not only too continue keeping children safe and advocating for their best interest but also to ensure that they have the things they need during this period of isolation by keeping these children engaged in activities.

Art and activities packets, bicycles and bike helmets, games, books, and other play items have been donated to them to help brighten their days. Older youth have been given computers and electronic notebooks so they are better able to keep up with schoolwork and communicate with family and friends online.   Many CASA volunteers are also helping children and teens with their homework. Just as important, they are listening to and addressing the needs of resource parents and kinship caregivers during this time of crisis, responding with everything from diapers and formula, to assistance with accessing free or low-cost internet.

Have your ever wondered how you can make the difference in the life of a child?  If you are curious about the requirements to be a CASA volunteer, the simple answer is time, compassion, commitment and a bit of training. CASA volunteers usually visit a child that has been assigned to them approximately once a month. During the pandemic, these visits are being done remotely and more often, sometimes weekly.  CASA volunteers work as facilitators to secure resources and services such as therapeutic evaluations for a child and family, tutoring services, educational resources, medical services, etc. CASA volunteers provide consistency and facilitate a strong foundation for a child’s growth and development.

Court Appointed Special Advocates are community members who volunteer with local CASA programs serving each county in the state. CASA volunteers work with children in the child welfare system who have already been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. For many of these children, risks to their personal well-being and safety are amplified during the coronavirus crisis due to special medical, educational, and behavioral health needs.

CASA represents a statewide network of community-based, non-profit programs that recruit, screen, train and supervise volunteers to “Speak Up for a Child” removed from home due to abuse or neglect. CASA is the only program in New Jersey that uses trained volunteers to work one-on-one with children, ensuring that each one gets the services needed and achieves permanency in a safe, nurturing home.

CASA programs throughout the state need volunteers now more than ever during this pandemic, and have already put into place mechanisms for remote screening and training. We encourage you to join us either by volunteering or by helping CASA Programs ensure children are safe during this time of national crisis. You can find out more about becoming a CASA volunteer at

“The Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Programs have a record of public service protecting the safety and well-being of New Jersey’s abused and neglected children, defending them from harm and ensuring that they are provided with the court-ordered services they need.”

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