The Gila County Foster Care Review Board is currently looking for volunteers to be board members.
Because of the rising numbers of children being placed into foster care in Gila County, the FCRB is looking to bolster its numbers as quickly as they can be approved and appointed to the board, according to Jonni Wolfe, with Arizona's Dependent Children Services Division.
Right now, 77 children reside in foster care in Gila County, and 8,826 are currently in foster care statewide.
"The majority of children in foster care come from environments which, for a variety of reasons, the state has determined not to be a safe setting for the child," Wolfe said. "You can't make a blanket statement about what kind of environment the children have come from, we take it on a case-by-case basis to determine what is in the best interest of the child."
"Sometimes the parents, through no fault of their own, are just unable to take care of, or provide adequately for the child, it does not mean they are not good parents, it only means they need some help," Wolfe added.
The goal of the FCRB is to place children in the best possible setting, whether it be in foster care, or returned to their parents, once it has been determined they can and will provide adequately for the child.
"Typically as a population increases, as it has been in Gila County, the number of children it is necessary to place into foster care becomes greater," Wolfe said.
She said as the numbers of children in foster care increases, so does the need for volunteer FCRB members.
In Arizona there are currently more than 500 members serving on 104 review boards, with five members per board throughout the state.
The FCRB boards meet every six months to review and make recommendations on children "involved in a dependency action and is in out-of-home placement."
According to the FCRB, their mission is, "Based upon the belief that each child has a right to, and is deserving of, a permanent home that provides nurturing, love and protection."
A person can not simply walk in and become a board member, there are some basic requirements to be met, Wolfe said.
"Of course, there are some requirements, like no criminal history, but our main requirement is that they (applicants) want to make a difference in the lives of these children," Wolfe said.
Board members are also required to fill out an application packet, submit fingerprints to DPS for a background check and to sign a three-year volunteer agreement if they are accepted.
Wolfe said applicants who pass all the review procedures and are accepted to the board would then appointed by a judge to a three-year volunteer term, and would then receive training before assuming full board member duties.
Volunteers are not expected to pay all of their expenses out of their own pockets.
"We will reimburse board members for mileage and for some subsistence. For example, if the board meets and decide to go out to lunch, then they can submit their receipt for the meal and we can reimburse them for it." Wolfe said.
She said there is no particular type of person they are looking for, just people who are willing to volunteer and have a genuine interest in helping children.
"All it takes is one day a month to make a significant difference in a child's life.
"Often, board members are the only consistency in these children's lives, managers and case workers change, or they may bounce from home to home."
"Board members often tend to stay longer and therefore can make a successful difference in the life of a foster child." Wolfe added.
For more information on becoming a member of FCRB contact the Phoenix office at: (602) 452-3400, or their Tucson office at: (520) 388-4300, or visit their Web site at: http://www.supreme.state.az.us/fcrb/.