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Volunteers needed to advocate for foster kids in Arizona

Arizona desperately  needs volunteers willing to speak up for children in foster care at their home, school and in court.

Only one in six kids get a special advocate who will be a constant presence as they go through the system.

Susan Ward has been a court-appointed special advocate in Washington state and now in Gila County.

Nearly 40% of Arizona children leaving foster care spent more than a year in the system.

Ward said volunteer advocates can be a consistent force for children who may live in multiple foster homes and have multiple case managers. 

“When you walk into the room, they recognize you. They know you are someone that they can trust. And that just makes a life changer in a lot of these kids’ lives," Ward said.

Roughly 11,000 children are in foster care in Arizona.

More than 85% won’t be assigned a special advocate.

At one point judges were relying on Ward to help nine kids in two families.

“It’s absolutely unbelievable when a few years later you hear from one of your kids and they’re doing well. They’re happy,” Ward said.

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.