Businesses all over New Jersey are using the International Women’s Day to celebrate the accomplishments of the females in their companies — and have the sometimes difficult, but certainly necessary discussions about whether women are being given an equal opportunity.
Erica Fischer-Kaslander applauds those efforts. And she hopes businesses will take a moment to think about the workforce of tomorrow, too. Especially opportunities for the most in need.
Fischer-Kaslander is the executive director of Passaic County CASA, a fully independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit that recruits, screens, trains and supervises volunteers to serve as Court Appointed Special Advocates for abused and neglected children in the foster care system.
And, while she said its No. 1 priority is to advocate in the best interest of those children and ensure they ultimately reach safe and permanent homes — whatever is the most appropriate placement for them — she knows that’s just a start to a better and more secure future.
Fischer-Kaslander said she needs businesses to help from there, she said.
“The business community can play a big part in what we do,” she told ROI-NJ. “When businesses are employing younger staff, maybe teenagers in the summer, making sure some of those business opportunities that can provide teenagers who are in foster care the workplace experiences they need in order to grow into successful adults who have full-time careers is vital.
“They need to gain basic life skills.”
Companies, Fischer-Kaslander said, can help with financial contributions. They are always welcome, she said. But there is so much more they can do to help.
“We have a mentoring program for our teens who are aging out of the foster care system, those who don’t get a job, those that aren’t being reunified,” she said. “We have a partnership with the Tri-County Chamber of Commerce, who works with us when we need job placements. We need volunteers and donors who can make that huge impact so we can continue to run these programs. They are the only source of continuity for children we advocate for. It helps ensure we have higher graduation rates and increased incomes after graduation.”
Every business, Fischer-Kaslander said, can help in a different way.
“It’s depends on the type of business, and what the business capacity is,” she said. “We have a number of different ways that businesses can get involved in everything from specific partnerships for our teenagers in employment training to actual employment training. Also, we have financial sponsorships for our programs and special events.”
Fischer-Kaslander said the payoff for businesses can be as big as it for the kids.
“They get ROI, because we have a really big footprint that we’re able to promote their business,” she said. “And we have volunteer opportunities for their teams. Obviously, large corporations have CSR responsibilities. Hopefully, they are looking for not just any volunteer opportunities, but really meaningful ones.
“We can offer really easy, yet really meaningful, opportunities. Programs that are professionally organized and well run that impact kids who are in their backyard and their communities. This ultimately will impact their own bottom line because, hopefully, these kids are going to raise up the population they will be looking to employ tomorrow or five years from now.”
Want to help?
The Passaic County CASA is independently run and can be reached at passaiccountycasa.org.
It is part of CASA of New Jersey Inc., which is part of a national network of nonprofit programs. CASA of NJ promotes and supports a statewide network of CASA programs that can be found in every county.