PHOENIX – Time is a valuable commodity in which everyone usually has a little bit extra. While much thought is given to gift giving during the holiday season, consider what the famous painter, Pablo Picasso, once said, “the meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away.”

Give the gift of time by volunteering to advocate for a child in Arizona’s foster care system.  CASA of Arizona (CASA) and the Foster Care Review Board (FCRB) want you to know you have the power to help a child who is going through a difficult time thrive.

CASA and FCRB volunteers are needed in every county throughout the state. There are about 10,000 children in foster care that could use a champion in their corner, like you!

Both CASA and FCRB programs were created to provide community members of all backgrounds and experiences a meaningful way to get involved and make a positive impact on the lives of children and youth in foster care.

“Kids at risk frequently don’t have a special person to be there for them. Become a CASA, be this special person,” expressed one CASA Volunteer.

Court Appointed Special Advocates are volunteers who advocate for the needs of children, teens, or sibling groups, ensuring their voice is heard. They make recommendations to the court on what is best for the child and advocate for everyday needs. A CASA volunteer is at their side throughout the entire foster care journey.

A CASA volunteer spends quality time with the youth and learns about every aspect of their case. This allows the CASA to effectively be an unbiased advocate for them in court, school, medical settings, and more to ensure all their personalized needs are being met. A child with a CASA volunteer fares much better than children without; they are more likely to find a safe and permanent home and more likely to succeed in school.

You can also be Co-CASAs and go through CASA training with a friend, spouse, parent, co-worker, etc. and advocate for a child in foster care as a team. Share the case and advocate together. “We have been [Co-CASA’s] for over 17 years. As a husband-and-wife team, we each bring different perspectives and skills when advocating for the children. It brings us closer together too,” shared Bud and Jan Dragoo.

The Foster Care Review Board (FCRB) is a peer collaborative environment, allowing for a volunteer to be on a panel with other community members. Volunteers meet via ZOOM one weekday per month. The Board reviews the cases of children in foster care, speaks with the interested parties, considers appropriate services and permanency goals, and makes recommendations to the court on what is in the best interest of the child.

“It’s [FCRB] a great program,” said Cindy, who has served as a CASA volunteer and recently began her second three-year term on the board. “I really like the structure of it, being able to listen to case workers and families on how the foster children are doing, and to make recommendations and suggestions – to know these children are being taken care of. It’s also nice when you see parents who are able to reunite with their children, because it’s hard work.”

In preparation for a board meeting, volunteers receive court documents and other case materials via a secured website about 10 days before the review date. Board members prepare questions to clarify and gather information with the attending interested parties (case managers, attorneys, parents, foster parents, counselors, licensing workers, Court Appointed Special Advocates, etc.). All this information gives them the insight to advocate for what is in the best interest of the child.

Volunteers receive the training needed to serve in these roles. Anyone 21 years of age who has the heart to help youth in their community and can pass a fingerprint background check is encouraged to learn more and apply at AZCASAVolunteer.org or azfcrb.org.

For those looking for a different volunteer experience, the Arizona Supreme Court is also seeking to recruit community members for its more than 30 standing committees and commissions. To learn more about the Court’s Committees and Commissions visit, azcourts.gov/committeescommissions/