Tonight's special guest is Tracey Heisler, from New Jersey, executive director of the CASA program in Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties. CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) recruits, screens, trains, and supervises community volunteers to act as advocates in court for children living in the foster care system, giving them a voice that might not otherwise be heard. Mrs. Heisler, herself the mother of 8 children, has degrees in Psychology with an emphasis in Juvenile Justice and Forensics. She came to this work as a result of her mother and uncle's experiences of growing up in the foster care system in upstate New York. It is her life's mission to improve the quality of life for these children while in care and to facilitate their transition to their "forever family," whether through reunification, adoption, or kinship legal guardianship, as quickly as possible. The role of CASA is to advocate for children in out-of-home placement. The CASA is appointed by the Family Court Judge. The volunteer must read all of the child's records and interview people in the child's life and then makes recommendations to the court. All volunteers must be screened, fingerprinted and must agree to a federal, state and local background check before being accepted into a CASA 30 hour training session. All volunteer must be over the age of 21 and be able to provide their own transportation.
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