The state of Kentucky is calling for volunteers from the public for its Citizen Foster Care Review Boards. While they exist in almost every state, the Review Board in question was created by the Kentucky General Assembly in 1982 as a response to federal legislation that was aimed at decreasing the amount of time children spend in foster care. The Citizen Foster Care Review Board works with the courts to ensure that foster children are places in permanent homes as soon as possible.
The Administrative Office of the Courts is responsible for the overseeing of the volunteers, which can number in the hundreds, who review the case files for children in custody of the State. The citizen board members evaluate the process, and see if the state is working quickly and efficiently enough to find homes for the children. They review each child’s case with a particular focus on the out-of-home placement and the permanency plan established by the Cabinet.
A six-hour training, and full background check is required to be a volunteer. Dolores Smith is a unit supervisor with the review board program. She says the boards are looking for volunteers from many different backgrounds. “The number one thing we look for is someone who has a genuine concern for child welfare—that’s the overriding feature,” Smith said. “Kentucky statutes also mention that we look for different professions, like education, social work, psychology, medical, and legal fields.” Smith says Citizen Foster Care Review Boards in Kentucky conducted over 20,500 reviews in FY 15. More than 11,000 Kentucky children were in foster care at some point during that time period.
The volunteers serve as watchdogs for the foster system in the state and come from all different backgrounds, both personal and professional. The one thing all volunteers share is a concern for children, and the welfare of children in custody of the state. The average length of service by a volunteer on the Citizen Foster Care Review Board is six years, which is evidence of the strength of the conviction the volunteers have.
The cases that volunteers oversee include those of youth whose commitments have been extended, children placed for adoptions that have not been finalized, children who have been returned home but remain committed and young adults whose out-of-home commitments have been extended. Children and young adults are also subject to review if they were originally committed as dependent, neglected or abused but have been recommitted as status or public offenders, provided the commitment was not interrupted. Every case fitting these guidelines must be reviewed at least once every six months, but volunteers can review cases more often if deemed necessary.
While they have seen success in Kentucky and many other states, 22 KY counties are currently looking for volunteers. If you are in Kentucky and want to help, check out www.courts.ky.gov for the details. If you live elsewhere and want to see if your state also has a Review Board, you can check out the Child Welfare Information Gateway, or Google more specific info.