For immediate release: April 28, 2008
For further information contact: Winnie Comfort or Tammy Kendig
New Jersey Judiciary Lauds Volunteers during National Volunteer Week April 27 through May 3
The New Jersey Judiciary is observing National Volunteer Week by thanking the more than 4,000 volunteers who serve the courts and the public in a wide variety of court programs.
"Volunteers are the lifeblood of some of our most successful programs," said Judge Philip S. Carchman, acting administrative director of the courts. "We are fortunate to have so many competent and dedicated volunteers, without whom we would be hard-pressed to provide the level of service that the public has come to expect from the New Jersey court system."
Volunteers have been working in the courts for decades, and the need for volunteers continues to grow. Juvenile Conference Committees, which now include about 1,800 volunteers statewide, were first introduced in 1948. This year also marks the 30th anniversary of Child Placement Review Boards. In addition, 2008 also is the first full year in which the Court Appointed Special Advocates programs, now comprising nearly 1,000 volunteers, are operating statewide. Complementary dispute resolution programs are recruiting volunteers in record numbers.
"We look for volunteers with a wide range of skills and experience," said Judge Carchman. "Some of the work requires special skills or training, and much of it involves direct contact with children, youth and families. All of our volunteers play an important role in building the public's trust and confidence in our court system."
Volunteers provide critical services in the following areas:
Child Placement Review (CPR) Boards: CPR boards comprise citizen volunteers who are appointed and trained by the courts to monitor the cases of all children who are placed outside their homes by the Division of Youth and Family Services. Boards examine case plans for each child and conduct interviews with involved parties in order to make recommendations to the court regarding issues such as how the case is managed and how quickly the child receives permanency.
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA): After completing mandatory training, each CASA volunteer is assigned to one abused and neglected child in out-of-home placement to investigate the case and explore all options for achieving a stable home environment for the child. CASA volunteers advocate before the court for the child's best interest.
Juvenile Conference Committees (JCC): Under the supervision of the Family Division of Superior Court, JCCs are panels of volunteers who hear and make recommendations to the court in matters involving juvenile offenders. Panels meet with juveniles, parents or guardians, and complainants in a confidential setting to discuss the complaint and to reach a resolution that will aid in the juvenile's rehabilitation.
Supervised Visitation Program: Volunteers in the Supervised Visitation Program are trained to supervise visits between children and their non-custodial parents to develop or re-establish familial relationships in a safe, neutral environment.
Municipal Court Mediation Program: Mediation provides an avenue to resolve disputes outside the traditional means of litigation. After mediation and conciliation training, volunteers act as neutral parties who mediate between disputing parties in cases such as simple assaults that do not include personal injury, trespass, harassment, noise complaints, pet complaints, larceny under $200 and other minor offenses.
Intensive Supervision Program (ISP) and Juvenile Intensive Supervision Program (JISP): Through ISP, nonviolent offenders are offered the opportunity to complete their prison sentences in the community under a rigidly structured program. Volunteers may act as sponsors for clients. In this role they assist ISP officers in developing and implementing a plan for rehabilitation and reintegration into the community. Volunteers also may assist JISP participants as sponsors or as community team members who help rehabilitate youth offenders in their communities.
Advisory Committee on Minority Concerns: In addition to statewide volunteer programs, each vicinage has an advisory committee comprising citizen volunteers, judges and court staff who examine issues of importance to minorities and other citizens in gaining fair and equitable access to the court's services and programs, assist with implementing the recommendations of the Supreme Court Committee on Minority Concerns, monitor the progress in each vicinage and make recommendations for improvements to the Superior Court and the Supreme Court.
Citizens interested in volunteer opportunities can call Karen June, manager of volunteer services, at 609-633-9782. Volunteer information also can be found on the New Jersey Courts Web site at njcourtsonline.com. Click on the "Quick Site Index" in the center of the front page and scroll down to "Volunteer Opportunities."