To make sure children have a loving and safe home, Floyd O'Neal, of Martinez, volunteers two days a month on the Citizen Panels for Foster Care Review.
"First of all, I do it because children are involved in this," said O'Neal, a retired professor from Augusta State University. "As far as I am concerned, children are our future."
O'Neal volunteers on one of three panels that assist in reviewing compliance with the court's orders in the cases of children who are removed from their families because of neglect or abuse.
Volunteers review cases and make recommendations to the juvenile court for children to return home or be placed for adoption, said Brian Stutts, the panels' coordinator.
Stutts said he regularly looks for new volunteers.
"Every few years, you've got to replenish your volunteers," Stutts said, but added that "The group of volunteers (we have now) is absolutely the best we've had in 15 years.''
Stutts said more volunteers are not crucial, but he would like to help bring a fresh approach to the process.
The panel was created 15 years ago as a watchdog and to provide children some stability in their lives. The review is currently made up of 15 people on three separate panels.
O'Neal, who has been volunteering with the review since the fall of 2002, said no special training or experience is necessary to make a good panel volunteer.
"If you have experience in life, you're good," O'Neal said, adding that a love for children and a need to protect them is what keeps him volunteering.
"They can't very well stand up for themselves," he said.
Any new volunteers will receive two days of initial training and five more hours of ongoing training, Stutts said. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Stutts at (706) 860-0661.
Everyone involved in the program donates their time and effort to review cases and sometimes attend court proceedings for the benefit of the children being affected.
"It is very rewarding," O'Neal said.
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