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Speaking Up on Behalf of Vulnerable Children – A Conversation with Lisa Barsky-Firkser

Their stories will break you heart. Jason's is all too typical:

He was removed from his birth mother right before his 5th birthday. It was determined that Jason was at substantial risk of harm due to inadequate parental supervision and homelessness, as well as his mother’s serious mental health issues and substance abuse.

Jason was placed into a foster home. Unfortunately, Jason exhibited violent tantrums, and he was diagnosed as suffering from mental illness. He often needed to be hospitalized due to his violent outbursts which resulted in the foster parents’ inability to keep Jason in their home.

A cycle of being placed in a foster home, and then removed because of disruptive behaviors and threats to other children, was sadly repeated 14 times during the course of his case.

Fortunately for Jason, Evelyn, a CASA volunteer (Court-Appointed Special Advocate for Children), was appointed by the court to advocate for him throughout his difficult journey. As a CASA, Evelyn was steadfast in advocating for his medical and mental health needs, and the in-home services that enabled Jason to settle into a permanent home.

This story has a happy ending: At the age of 10 Jason was adopted by his foster parents. Within months the foster parents relayed the good news that Jason was awarded a trophy for the “Most Improved Student” during the school year.

Evelyn’s work on Jason’s behalf is typical of a CASA volunteer.

In this episode I speak with Lisa Barsky-Firkser, Ph.d., the executive director of CASA of Morris and Sussex Counties in New Jersey. Under Lisa’s leadership, CASA of Morris and Sussex Counties has become a model for other CASA and similar organizations around the country. In our conversation, we discuss the foster care system, the CASA's role in the system and the ongoing work involved in finding state and private support to continue CASA’s mission.

We also chat about:

  • CASA of Morris and Sussex Counties’ mission to be a strong voice for the best interests of vulnerable children who have been removed from their homes for abuse, neglect or abandonment.
  • What it means to advocate for children in the foster care system.
  • Why CASAs are needed to do this work.
  • The difficulties in finding safe, permanent and nurturing homes for children in the system.
  • Working toward permanent placements for children.
  • What it means to “age out” of the system, the daunting challenges these adolescents face as they navigate on their own, and the efforts of CASA of Morris and Sussex Counties to support their needs.

And so much more…


Would you like to help a child like Jason?

Find out more about Lisa, CASA of Morris and Sussex Counties, or how to get involved with CASA at: https://www.casamsc.org/

Here’s where you can reach Lisa: