As the New Year approaches, the Foster Care Review Board (FCRB) and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Arizona encourage members of the community to add volunteerism as one of their New Year Resolution goals!

The FCRB and CASA programs enlist volunteers to advocate for children in foster care. 

Recently, Jim, a current FCRB member and previous CASA volunteer, reflected on the time he has spent advocating for children. Jim has been with the FCRB for six years and was a CASA for over four years.

“First, I was a mentor for 5 years then a CASA, where spending time with the child was great,” said Jim. “Part of our CASA training was to observe a FCRB review. I found it so interesting, I stayed for the entire morning. I then knew I wanted to become a FCRB member because I realized this completed the circle for me.” 

CASA volunteers meet with their assigned child each month and learn about all aspects of their life, ensuring the child’s needs are being met while in foster care. CASA volunteers advocate for the child’s best interests by providing court reports, attending hearings, and acting as a support to the child for the duration of the case.

FCRB volunteers commit to meeting virtually one weekday per month to review the cases of children who are in out of home care. As the children return home, become adopted, have guardianship granted or age out of the system, new cases are added to the review day.?The Board makes its recommendations to the Juvenile Court and interested parties involved in the case.

“One week prior to the meeting, I review two cases a day. Then I add any updated information regarding the cases. On the day of the review interested parties for each case have an opportunity to appear before the Board and speak about their concerns, successes, wants and needs for the child. We ask questions and consider all information available before making recommendations, which are then distributed to the Juvenile Court and all case participants.”? 

Jim describes the FCRB process as “eliciting testimonies from everyone at the review and making realistic recommendations to the Court. We start the review around 8:00 a.m. Everyone takes the lead on questioning for 2 or 3 cases. We finish around 3:00 p.m. I have a set schedule that I have used over the years to make sure I am prepared for the review.”

“FCRB speaks for the child, not DCS, or attorneys. That is why we make the recommendations directly to the Court. We want to ensure children are placed in the best possible situation to be successful, void of trauma that has been such a large part of their life thus far,” explained Jim.

Although the board members priority is the safety and wellbeing of the child, Jim said he also takes into consideration the family situation by “trying to understand why parents do what they do to have the child removed from the home. Also, we need to have compassion for parents as well, it may not be their fault. There is an intangible feeling of contributing something positive that promotes family values, knowing I am part of successful outcome for a child that may not have someone speak for them for various reasons or circumstances.” 

Volunteering can have great benefits not only for the cause, but also for the volunteer such as sense of community and promotes personal growth.

Jim warmly noted how “board members become family which promotes a positive board panel environment and the importance of the board members working together to make effective and sound recommendations on each case.”

Jim helped launch the FCRB and CASA Fall recruiting campaigns last August: Talk About CASA in Your CASA and Get on Board with the FCRB. Now that the campaign is coming to an end, he expressed “we discovered the campaign was successful and there was an increase in the number of new candidates and application packets sent out.”

There is still a need for volunteers throughout the state!

FCRB and CASA are programs within the Dependent Children’s Services Division of the Arizona Supreme Court. To become a volunteer, you must be at least 21 years of age, pass a fingerprint background check and complete training requirements.

To learn more about becoming a FCRB volunteer visit, www.azfcrb.org. 

To learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer visit, www.AZCASAVolunteer.org.