Many counties in many states have an overburdened foster care system. That gets to be a problem when children need to be placed quickly and safely in homes that will look out for this "surplus" in cases and children. As such, these counties have developed an unique approach to helping these children. It involves a system of juvenile court public affair volunteers. Here is how these programs work, and why the children and counties so desperately need these programs.
Volunteers Are Trained and Must Pass Background Checks
You are a volunteer. You do not get paid for your time. You have to attend and pass several hours of training because you will be responsible for the health, well-being, and placement of children. Any criminal history of sexual misconduct and/or violence excludes you from being a volunteer in these programs for obvious reasons.
Apart from the strict requirements, almost anyone can volunteer. The strict background checks are for the purpose of placing children with you in your home on an emergency basis. That does NOT make you a foster parent; you are acting as a social worker/foster parent in a number of senses, but you are neither. As a volunteer, you are a temporary "haven in the storm" until juvenile court and social workers can figure out what to do next.
Volunteers Are Advocates, Social Worker Assistants, and Temporary Children's Shelters
As a juvenile court public affairs volunteer, you work as a court advocate for each child to which you are assigned. That child may spend thirty minutes in your care during an intake session, or up to eight hours until a court hearing in juvenile court can be arranged. At the hearing, you provide input on what you think is best for a child, which may include placing a child in foster care when an opening becomes available, or placing the child with other relatives.
When you are handed a stack of police reports on why the child was taken out of his/her home and away from his/her parent(s). You will be asked to create an intake report that would normally be completed by a social worker. Because social workers do not work around the clock, and because courts have to decide how, when, and where to place these children, volunteers are tapped to complete some of these tasks in advance to a juvenile court hearing. Your volunteer work ensures that an overburdened foster care system has extra support.