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Clifton Recognizes Child Focus With Proclamation

Introducing Child Focus: CASA of Passaic and Union Counties
Announces New Era of Supporting Children and Families

Nonprofit Unveils Bold Rebranding During Child Abuse Prevention Month

NEW JERSEY – Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Passaic and Union Counties announced a new era, and a new identity “Child Focus,” to better reflect the nonprofit’s mission to prioritize the safety and well-being of infants, children, and teens in the child welfare system. The rebranding effort unveils the new name, logo, brand colors, and website; Child Focus will continue to operate its three impactful programs: CASA of Passaic and Union Counties, New Jersey Safe Babies Court Team, and Open Door Store.

In photo: Sara Torres, Outreach and Recruitment Coordinator for Child Focus, accepting the proclamation from Mayor Raymond Grabowski. 

According to the NJ Child Welfare Data Hub, nearly 91,000 New Jersey children were referred for abuse and neglect investigations in 2022, the latest year for which data is available. Ensuring these vulnerable children have access to needed supports, services, and even committed champions within their community is priority. Child Focus’ three critical programs support a holistic approach through which every child is seen, heard and valued.

“We are excited to embark on this new chapter as Child Focus. This fresh identity reflects the depth and breadth of our programming and advocacy efforts as well as underscores our unwavering commitment to serving every child in our community. This rebrand not only eliminates confusion about our geographical scope but also distinguishes our overarching mission from the specific programs we offer,” said Erica Fischer-Kaslander, Executive Director of Child Focus, who has led the organization since its inception.

Child Focus, founded in 2007 as Passaic County CASA, has made a significant impact in the communities it serves, while continuing to expand its reach. Just last year, the CASA program expanded into Union County to serve child-victims there and, in total, provided 344 children with 211 volunteer advocates. CASA volunteers, often described as “eyes and ears” of the court and “arms and legs” of an overworked child protective system, are often the only consistent person in a child’s life.

Last year, the New Jersey Safe Babies Court Team program provided individual care to 43 vulnerable babies and toddlers across Passaic, Essex, and Hudson counties. Also, the Open Door Store program provided $43,959 in goods to children and families in need, including more than 500 fully stocked backpacks for back-to-school, more than 1,200 pieces of clothing, and 146 cases of diapers.

“Looking ahead, we remain energized to champion the rights of children and infants entangled in the child welfare system through no fault of their own. Our new identity as Child Focus reinforces our core values and empowers us to continue making a meaningful difference in the lives of vulnerable youth,” said Fischer-Kaslander.

This month, Child Focus will host two Open House events for community members interested in learning more about the organization’s work, and its volunteer and partnership opportunities: Thursday, April 18 from 5:30-7:30pm in Wayne, and Tuesday, April 30 from 12-2pm in Elizabeth. Additionally, Child Focus hosts volunteer Information Sessions for those interested in becoming a CASA volunteer. More information is available on its new website: https://www.childfocusnj.org/.

Representatives from Child Focus (Formerly CASA of Passaic and Union Counties) attended the Clifton Council meeting on Tuesday, April 16th, where at 7:30 pm, Mayor Grabowski read a proclamation to designate April as Child Abuse Prevention Month and recognize the organization’s outstanding work in advocating for child victims of abuse and neglect. “We understand that Child Abuse is a real thing and it needs to be recognized; more people need to be aware of it and hopefully join in support of all the families that are in need, so thank you very much”, stated the Mayor.

Child Focus’ programs Include:

·        CASA of Passaic and Union Counties: The organization recruits, trains, and supports volunteer advocates to speak up for the best interests of children in foster care. Assigned by a family court Judge, the CASA volunteer gathers information and makes informed recommendations to the court. The CASA volunteer is  a consistent person in the child’s life, ensuring their voice is heard and their needs are met in an otherwise chaotic system.

·        New Jersey Safe Babies Court Team: An evidence-backed initiative based on the model developed by ZERO TO THREE, the program provides high-quality support to infants, toddlers, and their families who have experienced abuse and/or neglect in Essex, Hudson, and Passaic counties.

·        Open Door Store: Designed to provide children in the foster care system access to basic essentials and goods needed for their day-to-day living. Open Door Store includes such necessities as diapers, wipes, formula, as well as clothing, shoes, and accessories. Children and teens in the child welfare system, their caretakers, and their advocates ‘shop’ for free, as no money is ever accepted. Because children can select items themselves, Open Door Store provides autonomy and fosters a sense of normalcy for those who have experienced tremendous turmoil and live amid many unknowns.

 

ABOUT CHILD FOCUS:

Child Focus champions the best interests of children in the child welfare system. This critical work is accomplished through three distinct but complementary programs: CASA of Passaic and Union Counties, NJ Safe Babies Court Team, and Open Door Store. For more information about Child Focus, log on to www.childfocusnj.org.

Submitted by Carly Rubel