The Edens of Margate named CASA Family of the Year

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The Eden family of Margate was recognized as the CASA Family of the Year. Pictured here are dad Jim, twins Siena and Sean, and mom Christine. The Eden family of Margate was recognized as the CASA Family of the Year. Pictured here are dad Jim, twins Siena and Sean, and mom Christine. MARGATE – The Eden family of N. Clermont Avenue, Jim, Christine and twins Sean and Siena, were recognized recently for being the Court Appointed Special Advocate Family of the Year. The entire family volunteers for the organization that looks out for the best interests of abused or neglected children who need foster care or are involved in the court system.

Christine Eden has been involved with CASA for Children of Atlantic and Cape May Counties for 12 years. She learned about the group from a friend who was on the board.

“I had no knowledge of CASA then, but I attended several events with my friend Michelle Dillon and she got me involved organizing fundraisers and doing some marketing and special events,” she said.

Later, when she met and married Jim, now a retired state trooper, she encouraged him to get involved as an advocate.

Jim Eden, who is now a substitute teacher at Atlantic City High School, was in the educational services unit at the New Jersey State Police and taught the D.A.R.E. program and motor vehicle and other safety programs in high schools across the state.

“I was comfortable being with kids,” he said. “My wife said it takes someone special to do this type of work. You have to have a personality that lets you separate this work from your personal life.”

Jim Eden said that during his 31 years as a state trooper, he saw children taken away from their parents because of domestic violence, abuse or neglect and often had to take their parents to jail. He gets some of the more difficult cases because of his background as a police officer.

“This time, I’m on the other side with the kids,” he said. “We have a continual relationship throughout the process, which could take as long as two years.”

He has advocated for children in three different families since he got involved more than three years ago.

“There’s lots of lawyers at the table representing everyone involved, but the judge wants an independent advocate for the kids,” Jim Eden said. “Sometimes, the cases are more involved than others.”

Being an advocate requires visits with the parents as well as the children in foster care, who are sometimes placed with grandparents or other relatives, to see how they are doing. If they are old enough, he visits them at school to see how they are doing academically, behaviorally and socially. Preparing reports for the judge is a big part of the job, he said, and sometimes he must testify about his findings in court on behalf of the child.

“Some advocates are compassionate people, but don’t like writing reports. That’s something I have lots of experience doing,” he said.

The end result is not always what he hopes for, but the satisfaction he feels is rewarding nonetheless, he said.

“In the end, it’s great to see some kids reunited with their mothers, and other times, it goes badly and the kids are taken away a second time. In any case, it feels satisfying and good to give something back,” he said.

The couple’s twin seven-year-olds got involved this year. When their parents threw them a birthday party, instead of asking for birthday presents, they asked for donations to be made to CASA. The children raised nearly $910 and their parents put in the rest to make it a $1,000 donation.

“It’s nice to know we can do something special for other people,” Siena said.

“It feels good doing things for people that don’t have a much as me,” Sean said.

The party was also a way to share information about CASA with others who can make a difference, Christine Eden said.

“It was exciting to know that the people who came to the party are getting it. They learned about CASA and what it does,” she said.

The childrens’ thoughtfulness of others was doubly rewarded as about a dozen parents who attended the party not only wrote a check to CASA but also gave her children a gift, she said.

When he heard what Sean and Siera had done, Principal John DiNicola at the Ross School, where they both were in the first grade, presented them with the “CASA Heroes Award,” during a school assembly.

Being recognized as Family of the Year came as a surprise during CASA’s annual Volunteer Appreciation Party held June 3 at Doc’s Place in Somers Point.  That’s when CASA recognizes its volunteer social services workers, judges, attorneys and volunteers. During the program, CASA swears in a new class of volunteers who complete CASA’s 30-hour training program.

“You go through life never expecting to be recognized like that. It was very special,” Jim Eden said.

Director of Community Development Karen DeRosa said rewarding a family was never done before.

“We have many volunteer families, but what makes the Edens so special is that they are passing down their giving ways to their children. It’s heartwarming to see the generations carry on,” DeRosa said. “The Edens are a wonderful family, and we are grateful for everything they have done for us and the children we serve.”

Click here to learn about how to become a CASA volunteer.


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