When Andrea Maikowski moved to Hoboken two years ago, she was looking for a way to be of service. She found it in a young girl in the foster care system.
As a CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocate, Maikowski became responsible for looking out for the child's well-being, visiting her regularly in her foster home, and going with her to court. Maikowski became, as she told the girl's birth mother, "the eyes and ears for your child to the judge."
While it may not always be easy, Maikowski said it's a rewarding experience.
"When I first got into it, my first thought was, 'Why would this kid even talk to me? Who am I to her?'" said Maikowski. "Kids in the system have so many adults come in and out of their lives and they're willing to talk."
Last year, more than 77,000 volunteers helped 234,000 children who had been abused or neglected, according to the national program's website.
The Hudson County branch, based in Jersey City, provides intensive training for new advocates who must be sworn in by a judge.
Maikowski said more volunteers are needed to help the hundreds of children who are in foster care in the county find safe, permanent homes.
"There's many kids that we can't even service," she said. "There's many more cases than volunteers."
A new training session begins on January 28. For more information, visit HudsonCountyCASA.org.