Arizona’s Foster Children Need You: Court Advocacy Groups Call For More Volunteers

Arizona’s Foster Children Need You: Court Advocacy Groups Call For More Volunteers

By Corinne Murdock |

The state’s two main foster care court advocacy groups are requesting more volunteers to assist and advocate for children in the foster care system.

In a press release issued on Wednesday — also recognized as National Adoption Day — the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) expressed a need for volunteers in all 15 counties to serve with them or the Foster Care Review Board (FCRB). 

CASA and the FCRB provide aid to the approximately 10,000 children in the state’s foster care system. CASA Program Manager Charlie Gray stressed in a press release that expertise isn’t necessary for volunteering — just compassion.

“You do not need to be steeped in child welfare experience or knowledge,” said Gray. “You only need to have a compassion to help guide a child through one of the most emotionally difficult experiences they will have in their life.”

Children in the state’s foster system need the support and care of their community more than ever: as we reported in August, a recent audit of the Arizona Department of Child Services found that caseworkers were failing the children in their charge by neglecting to provide all necessary documents for their cases and skipping case review meetings. 

The auditor general found that these shortcomings by DCS caseworkers not only hindered children’s cases but compromised the foster care system by diminishing trust from the Administrative Office of the Courts and the local foster care review boards tasked with completing foster children’s cases.

Arizona community members may make up for DCS shortcomings by providing advocacy, support, and attentive care to the children and their cases.

CASA volunteers visit and build a relationship with a child as well as the people involved in their case. These volunteers also serve as advocates for the child’s best interests in court by issuing recommendations, while working alongside others involved with that child. That may include the child’s teachers, foster family, parents, and service providers. These volunteers serve as a stable, consistent presence for the child. 

“A CASA volunteer stays with the child throughout the entire case and is often the one consistent adult throughout the court process,” stated CASA.

Comparatively, FCRB volunteers serve on a five-member panel that meets virtually once a month to review children’s foster care cases. The goal of the volunteers is to become acquainted with the same cases, recognize the needs of a child and their family, and achieve permanency.

Those interested in volunteering must be at least 21 years of age, able to pass a fingerprint background check, and able to participate in an introductory program training. Those desiring to be CASA volunteers may apply here; those interested in applying to be FCRB volunteers may apply here.

There are plenty of other volunteer opportunities to assist the court system, and thereby make it easier for those going through it. CASA shared that the Arizona Supreme Court also needs volunteers for its 30 standing committees and commissions. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

2nd Grade Girl Fundraising To Buy Christmas Toys For All 14K Foster Kids In Arizona

2nd Grade Girl Fundraising To Buy Christmas Toys For All 14K Foster Kids In Arizona

By Corinne Murdock |

Christmas cheer came a little early this year, in the form of 7-year-old Avery Bell – the elementary school girl hopes to raise enough money to buy Christmas toys for the 14,000 foster children of Arizona, and she needs your help. Avery and her family call their effort, “Fidgets for Fosters.”

Fidget toys are small, often colorful objects usually made from plastic or rubber. Apart from helping to pass the time, some studies indicate that fidget toys may alleviate stress and anxiety as well as help concentration. They may be purchased for as low as $1 – Avery’s goal is to raise at least $14,000.
Greater awareness of fidget toys emerged with the rise in popularity of “fidget spinners” around 2017 – a metal or plastic toy with three arms that children can hold between two fingers and spin.

Avery told AZ Family that she’s confident these toys can bring joy to those in the foster care system, based on how they helped her this past summer.

“It would make them happy, and when they grow up, they can give them to another kid and to another kid and keep going, spreading joy all over the world,” said Avery.

Avery was inspired to buy gifts for Arizona’s foster care children after she broke her leg and was temporarily confined in a wheelchair over the summer. Avery’s father Andrew Schmid explained that’s when she discovered fidget toys, and how much joy they brought her.

“That made her think about foster kids; maybe they had challenging days, and maybe having fidget toys would help them get through their day and cope with some of their challenges,” shared Schmid.

According to Foster Focus Mag, the holidays are hard for many children in the system: they may not get to experience Christmas, may be missing their families, or they may be processing negative experiences from holidays past.

Readers can help Avery make Christmas come true by donating to her GoFundMe page here. As of press time, she was well over halfway to her goal.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.