Wednesday, May 16, 2012

OOIE Volunteer Advocate Program "Springs" Ahead


The OOIE Volunteer Advocate Program has joined a handful of other states in requiring criminal history background checks, which include a fingerprint screen, for all new volunteers.

“Since our volunteer advocates provide direct resident contact and support, OOIE has implemented criminal background checks as a valuable screening tool for potential volunteers,” said Deirdre Mraw, the OOIE statewide volunteer coordinator. “Criminal background checks help ensure that our volunteers are honest, safe and qualified. This adds another layer of protection as we advocate for this vulnerable population.”

After filling out an initial application and undergoing a preliminary interview with an OOIE regional volunteer coordinator, prospective volunteers are asked to fill out a form consenting to a criminal history background check and are directed to a company that takes fingerprints and submits them to the NJ State Police.

The results will be available from the State Police approximately 7-8 business days from the date of fingerprinting. Once the criminal history background check is completed, the volunteer will begin their formal 32 hours of training.


At the quarterly volunteer advocate meetings in March, trainers from OOIE and the Office of Community Choice Options (DHSS) educated OOIE volunteers about their participation in an important federal initiative called Money Follows the Person (MFP). This MFP program provides enhanced federal money to participating states for every person it transitions from institutional setting to a home/community based setting. This process includes extensive counseling and assessment, a housing search, and assistance to acquire all of the medical and social resources the person needs to make a successful transition.

OOIE volunteers will play an important role in this project - identifying potential candidates for the program. Since the training, OOIE volunteers have identified several nursing facility residents who have expressed an interest in moving to a less restrictive environment. The volunteers work closely with social workers to make sure that these referrals are made and that the residents receive counseling about their options.


OOIE is partnering with AARP New Jersey to recruit volunteers to achieve its goal of placing one volunteer advocate in each of New Jersey's more than 360 nursing homes. Since the beginning of the year, OOIE has attended several local AARP outreach events to promote OOIE services generally and to specifically tout the Volunteer Advocate Program. OOIE looks forward to future collaboration with AARP New Jersey to raise awareness among the state’s active senior population about this important volunteer opportunity.


Since it is Older American’s Month, the OOIE urges anyone who is interested in becoming a volunteer advocate to contact the office at 609-826-5053. There are currently about 180 volunteer advocates in the state but at least twice that number are needed in order to have an advocate assigned to every nursing facility. “There is a significant unmet need out there,” said Ombudsman McCracken. “I urge anyone who is interested in making a meaningful contribution to the lives of elderly New Jersey residents to give us a call – today!”


  1. Hi

    This is awesome step because implementation in criminal background checks is very significant step.

    Volunteer community

  2. Excellent post, thanks for sharing this. Great to hear that there are wonderful volunteer programs such as this out there. I work in assisted living in Pittsfield NH and we have some very similar programs in our area too!

    - Susan