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CASA Spotlight: Celebrating Taylor Heaney, Our Advocate of the Month for February!

In September 2023, CASA of CGS gained a passionate advocate for its children in foster care – Taylor Heaney, an experienced educator with a heart dedicated to making a difference. With over seven years of teaching experience and dedication to service learning, Taylor is no stranger to fostering leadership and success among her students.

Taylor's journey as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) began with a deep-rooted belief in the proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child." Considering becoming a foster/resource parent, she delved into the world of CASA after connecting her law enforcement students with CASA for a SkillsUSA project, realizing the impactful role CASA plays in the legal community.


Reflecting on her decision, Taylor expressed, "Being an advocate will enable me to understand the circumstances related to the process and the needs of the children in care." With a focus on working with teens, Taylor draws on her seven years of experience with high school students, understanding the challenges and needs of individuals navigating the crucial juncture of adolescence.


Considering her CASA experience, Taylor shares her insights, "Unconditional love and support are major factors when assisting children in care. Even when things get challenging, there are a lot of factors that influence a child's actions and circumstances. As a CASA, it is our role to remain a consistent and supportive adult in their journey."


Moreover, Taylor emphasizes her awareness that the system is even more overloaded than she initially thought, stating that, "The system is even more overloaded than I initially thought, and a lot of things put into place to support children don't work how they're meant to, making a CASA essential." Through her work, Taylor echoes the sentiment that being a CASA advocate is crucial in navigating the complexities of a system strained beyond expectation.


Her Advocate Coordinator, Vivian, commends Taylor's approach, highlighting her diligence in addressing her youth's academic progress and advocating for necessary evaluations, “Taylor approaches her role as CASA with the authority of a seasoned educator. She understands that oftentimes children in foster care are not given proper attention. From the inception of her case,  she implemented access to her youth's academic progress so that she can not only report to the court but also set up her youth for success. When her youth started having disciplinary issues due to cutting class, Taylor requested a CST meeting to ensure the school was implementing the IEP and adding additional supports where needed. Through her diligent study of her youth's records, Taylor brought attention to the fact that her youth has not  received psychological and other necessary evaluations in 7 years. Taylor is impressive in her commanding and cordial ways of highlighting areas where improvement is needed. She is a CASA driver of much needed awareness and change!”


Taylor shares that the driving force behind her continued commitment as a CASA advocate is encapsulated in the powerful quote by Rita Pierson, “Every child deserves a champion” and knowing that her advocacy is making a difference,

“The children that CASA supports have already had so many difficulties and they need someone to advocate for their best interest, who is dedicated to just them, outside of their attorneys and caseworkers that have so many other children to look after.”

Taylor's impact extends beyond her advocacy work, as evidenced by her collaboration with the Cumberland County Technical Education Center (CCTEC) SkillsUSA. In November, over 30 students, guided by their dedicated teacher Ms. Heaney collected approximately 400 items to create independent living kits for adolescents in foster care.


Gloucester Advocate Coordinator, Michele, says, “Taylor did an amazing job organizing a drive with her students at CCTEC. Because of their efforts, our teens were provided with fantastic baskets full of cleaning supplies and hygiene items. It's more than just things– it's boosted these teens’ confidence as they take on independent living. I am so grateful to Taylor and her team for making a real difference in their lives!"


Taylor reflects on her experience with the CASA CGS team with genuine appreciation, “Working with the CASA CGS team has been an amazing experience. Everyone is so friendly, welcoming, supportive, and kind throughout the process.” In the midst of such a positive and encouraging team, Taylor's commitment and passion truly shine, making her an integral part of the collaborative efforts to make a meaningful impact on the lives of the children she advocates for.


“Taylor embodies sweetness, sincerity, and strength unlike anyone I've encountered before. When she decided to become a CASA, it was evident we had struck gold. Her presence in our community is a true blessing!”says Program Director, Jennifer of her experience working with Taylor.


In addition to her impactful roles as an advocate and educator, Taylor dedicates herself to uplifting the academic journey of students in various capacities. Serving on the Intervention & Referral Service committee, she actively contributes to supporting struggling students, ensuring they receive the assistance needed to thrive. Additionally, as an advisor for SkillsUSA, Taylor focuses on cultivating leadership skills in students, paving the way for their success post-graduation. Her commitment to service learning extends from professional responsibilities to personal interests, such as finding solace and joy in gardening and immersing herself in the world of reading.


Taylor warmly encourages others to explore joining the CASA team, expressing,

"CASA provides a meaningful opportunity to contribute and make the world a better place by supporting those who need it most."

Her sincere support emphasizes the substantial impact that being a CASA advocate can have, bringing about real change in the lives of children.

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