Arizona Court Struggles To Fill Positions On Foster Care Review Boards

By Alexandra Olgin
Published: Tuesday, December 22, 2015 - 5:37pm

The number of kids living in shelters, group and foster homes and with extended family has increased by 25 percent in the past two years. The need for volunteers to review those placements is also growing.

Each five-member Foster Care Review Board oversees 100 children. There are now more than 130 boards around the state to accommodate the nearly 18,000 kids living in out-of-home care.

The volunteer boards are run by the dependent children’s services division of the Arizona Supreme Court. Currently there are 100 empty board positions in Maricopa County and 250 statewide. Spokesperson Heather Murphy said despite the vacancies the workload is the same.

“We’re still obligated to meet that review point every six months, so boards might be meeting with fewer than five members,” Murphy said. “In some cases we’ve had foster care review board members who will double up and serve on another board.”

Board members meet once a month for six to eight hours to assess safety, case plan compliance and permanency. The boards’ recommendations are sent to juvenile court judges in each case.

Murphy said the boards have always had vacancies, but the need is growing now because more children are being removed from their homes. In September, the Department of Child Safety reported it removed 1,188 children from their homes.