The hub of information for the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program, our blog contains posts with announcements, news and events, articles, periodicals and additions or updates to our website.

This page contains published posts from the February 2012 archive sorted chronologically with the newest at the top.

New Event: Volunteer Recruitment Coffee

We regularly host a variety of events to provide community outreach, raise awareness of our program, recruit new volunteers, fund raise and furnish training to our volunteer guardians ad litem. The following event has been recently added to our calendar.

Volunteer Recruitment Coffee
Have your questions answered, talk to current volunteers and learn about our program at our monthly Volunteer Recruitment Coffee. Members of our Volunteer Recruitment Committee will be on hand to discuss the rewards of becoming a guardian ad litem and guide you through the application process.

A Voice Heard 2012 Status Report

Florida Guardian ad Litem Program "A Voice Heard" 2012 Status Report

The Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office provides an annual report "to the Governor, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court."[1]

This year's report—the "A Voice Heard" 2012 Status Report—is now available for download.

You can read the below excerpt from the report's executive summary and download the full report.

 

The "A Voice Heard" initiative was designed to listen to the voices of children in foster care to better understand their experiences in working with a guardian ad litem volunteer and the expectations they have of the guardian ad litem volunteer with whom they have contact.

The information was obtained from informal conversations between guardian ad litem volunteers in six of Florida's judicial circuits and 152 elementary, middle and high school students, as well as youth who have aged out of the foster care system at age eighteen.

It was consistently confirmed that the bond between a guardian ad litem volunteer and the children with whom the volunteer spends time is built on the following key elements:

  1. Communication: Talking, Listening and Understanding
  2. Personal Interest: Caring and Concern
  3. Support: Emotional and Material
  4. Trust: Openness and Honesty
[1] § 39.8296 (2)(b)(7), Florida Statutes (2011).

Twenty Volunteer Guardians ad Litem Sworn In

On Friday, February 17, 2012, twenty volunteers were sworn in as guardians ad litem at the Leon County Courthouse in downtown Tallahassee.

Joining Circuit Director Deborah Moore and members of her staff in welcoming the new guardians ad litem were Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office Executive Director Alan Abramowitz and Florida Guardian ad Litem Foundation Board Chair Bonnie Marmor.

The ceremony began with brief remarks from Alan Abramowitz. He congratulated the new volunteers not only as Executive Director but as a fellow guardian ad litem for the Second Judicial Circuit. He also spoke about the "A Voice Heard" 2012 Status Report and provided copies to all.

Next, Deborah Moore took the stage to again welcome and congratulate the new guardians. After giving a brief speech, Moore introduced her staff and Bonnie Marmor before turning things over to the Circuit Judge presiding over the swearing in ceremony, the Honorable Dawn Caloca-Johnson.

Judge Caloca-Johnson briefly discussed the process from her perspective and highlighted the importance and value of guardians ad litem. She thanked the new volunteers and then invited them to approach the bench and introduce themselves.

After meeting the volunteers, Judge Caloca-Johnson asked them to raise their right hands and repeat the oath as administered. Completing the ceremony, Judge Caloca-Johnson congratulated the new guardians ad litem and the courtroom broke into applause. Before moving on to her next judicial proceeding, Judge Caloca-Johnson took a few minutes to answer questions and take photographs with the volunteers.

We are very proud of and thankful for all of our volunteer guardians ad litem!

To see all of our photographs from this event, view the Volunteers Sworn In 2012-02-17 set on Flickr.

Event Updates: Cancellation and Postponement

Please take note that the following scheduled events have been canceled or postponed.

CANCELED
Volunteer Training F was originally scheduled for April 23, 25, 26, 30, May 2 and 3, 2012. This event will not be rescheduled, however two other volunteer training programs are currently scheduled.

POSTPONED
The Volunteer Reception at Goodwood was originally scheduled for April 12, 2012. A new date and time for this special event will be announced in the near future.

STAY INFORMED
Subscribe to our blog RSS feed and follow us on Twitter to get the latest news and updates.

Guardian ad Litem Day 2012 Event Report

On Thursday, February 9, 2012, the Florida Guardian ad Litem Foundation hosted their annual Guardian ad Litem Day advocacy event at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida.

Guardian ad Litem Day brings volunteers, members of the community and legislators together to discuss and expand awareness of the needs of Florida's dependent children as well as honor the achievements of the program.

See the complete Guardian ad Litem Day 2012 photograph set on Flickr.
Click on the pictures embedded in this article to see them larger.

The Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program was proud to attend and many of our staff, volunteers and community supporters were present. The day provided an excellent opportunity for our local Big Bend guardian ad litem community to meet and interact not only with each other but also with those doing great work statewide. Along with volunteers from other circuits, we took turns staffing a table in the main lobby of the Capitol welcoming guests and providing public outreach. Outreach for the day was also provided by us live on Twitter.

Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- 'Welcome to Florida's Capitol' sign welcoming visitors entering the rotunda on the east side of the Plaza Level of the Capitol during Guardian ad Litem Day on February 9, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida. Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- A volunteer talks to a visitor at our information table in the rotunda on the east side of the Plaza Level of the Capitol during Guardian ad Litem Day on February 9, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida.

The morning started on the twenty-second floor of the Capitol with a light continental breakfast. Participants were invited to sign-in, mingle and receive copies of the 2012 Legislative Handbook, a guide to discussing the issues with members of the legislature, and the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program "A Voice Heard" 2012 Status Report. The goal of the "A Voice Heard" initiative is to gain a better understanding of Florida's foster youth expectations and experiences with their guardian ad litem volunteer.

Officially kicking off Guardian ad Litem Day 2012 was Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office Executive Director Alan Abramowitz. Welcoming everyone who was there so far—many more participants and guests would arrive as the day progressed—Abramowitz provided an update on the program's outstanding $3.9 million Legislative Budget Request.

Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Continental breakfast in the reception area of the twenty-second floor of the Capitol during Guardian ad Litem Day on February 9, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida. Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Alan Abramowitz welcoming participants in the west wing of the twenty-second floor of the Capitol during Guardian ad Litem Day on February 9, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida.

Sought in order to hire additional volunteer supervisors and volunteer recruiters on private contract, these funds would provide the program with additional flexibility to engage and sustain volunteer recruitment, growth and retention. Abramowitz explained that this is but one part of the strategy to provide a guardian ad litem to all of Florida's dependent children by June 30, 2018 as part of the Campaign for 10,000 Voices announced last month.

Finishing his opening remarks, Abramowitz encouraged those having conferences with legislators and their aides and reminded everyone of the four key legislative events scheduled. On the north side of the complex, the Florida House of Representatives were holding normal session in their chamber from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. On the south side, three committees of the Florida Senate were holding meetings: the Budget Senate Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice, the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs, and the Senate Committee on Judiciary.

Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Legislators prepare to recite the Pledge of Allegiance of the United States in the chamber of the House of Representatives on the fourth floor of the Capitol during Guardian ad Litem Day on February 9, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida. Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Speaker Dean Cannon during the third reading of HB 5401 (Juvenile Detention) in the chamber of the House of Representatives on the fourth floor of the Capitol during Guardian ad Litem Day on February 9, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida.

Complete documentation is available for the House session and Senate committee meetings held on Thursday, February 9, 2012.

As noontime approached, attendees started returning to the twenty-second floor for the keynote speakers. The first speaker was Mag McGauley, former Board Chair of the Florida Guardian ad Litem Foundation. After opening the event, making a few remarks and thanking Bonnie Marmor, Board Chair of the Florida Guardian ad Litem Foundation, McGauley introduced the next speaker.

Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Mag McGauley speaking during the keynote event in the west wing of the twenty-second floor of the Capitol during Guardian ad Litem Day on February 9, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida. Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Jane Munroe speaking during the keynote event in the west wing of the twenty-second floor of the Capitol during Guardian ad Litem Day on February 9, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida.

Jane Munroe, Chief Executive Officer of the Florida Guardian ad Litem Foundation, spoke of the Foundation's goals and mission saying that one key is "communication, communication, communication." Munroe also said that she wants to open the door to people and organizations to help meet that mission. Concluding her remarks, Munroe introduced Alan Abramowitz.

Abramowitz discussed three key topics during his keynote speech. He first spoke of the "I Am for the Child" public awareness campaign launched late last year by the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association. The purpose of the campaign is to create a national movement behind the goal of providing a volunteer guardian ad litem to represent the best interests of all dependent children.

Next, Abramowitz discussed the Department of Children and Families new Partners for Promise program. He talked about how the program seeks to form partnerships in the community and why the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program was one of the first supporting partners. Before introducing the next speaker, Abramowitz concluded his remarks by talking about the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program 2012 Status Report and "A Voice Heard" initiative, speaking very highly of the results of the initiative, which sought direct feedback from the beneficiaries of the program.

Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Alan Abramowitz discussing the 'A Voice Heard' report during the keynote event in the west wing of the twenty-second floor of the Capitol during Guardian ad Litem Day on February 9, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida. Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- David Wilkins speaking during the keynote event in the west wing of the twenty-second floor of the Capitol during Guardian ad Litem Day on February 9, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida.

Next on stage was David Wilkins, Secretary of the Department of Children and Families. Secretary Wilkins spoke of the close relationship between his agency and guardian ad litem programs. He said that both organizations' only desire is to help kids and that they work together to achieve their common goals. Wilkins went on to say that with a guardian ad litem involved, the dependency process works better—expedited but thought through. "Children know and trust you," said Wilkins speaking of guardians ad litem.

Wilkins continued his remarks by highlighting a number of changes the Department of Children and Families is making to improve the lives of children statewide. He said that engaging the guardian ad litem community is an important way to help children and that we all have to "fight the system" to do what is best for them. Concluding his remarks, Wilkins talked about a bill in the legislature that would better empower Child Protective Investigators and spoke of needing to "drill down to family dynamics" to find out how to best help families.

Following Secretary Wilkins' speech, Alan Abramowitz returned to the stage to introduce the next and very special speaker, Gaby Edouard. As a former foster youth, Edouard knows firsthand the benefits of a volunteer guardian ad litem and he spoke to the crowd about his personal experiences. Edouard said that without a mother and father, his life path eventually led to legal troubles. With the help of his guardian ad litem, Leslie Diver, also in attendance, Edouard was able to resolve his court situation and become a United States citizen. He is currently gainfully employed and attending college courses.

Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Former foster youth Gaby Edouard speaking during the keynote event in the west wing of the twenty-second floor of the Capitol during Guardian ad Litem Day on February 9, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida. Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Everyone gives former foster youth Gaby Edouard a standing ovation after his speech during the keynote event in the west wing of the twenty-second floor of the Capitol during Guardian ad Litem Day on February 9, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida.

Edouard said that he did not wish to depend on anyone initially. After meeting Diver, he realized that she was the first person who cared about his well-being in a long time. Edouard said that he is fortunate to have had a guardian ad litem in his life and that she taught him how to make good decisions. He also pointed out how he appreciated even the small things during visits, citing listening to music in Diver's vehicle as an example.

In a heartwarming conclusion to his story, Edouard told the crowd that after finishing her guardian ad litem duties with him, Diver became his mother through adoption. Now that he has an education, Edouard says that he wants to return the gifts he has received by helping others. He spoke of a desire to return to his birthplace of Haiti to help the children there and affect positive change nationwide. At the conclusion of his remarks, Edouard received a thunderous round of applause and standing ovation from all in attendance.

Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Leslie Diver, Gaby Edouard, David Wilkins and Alan Abramowitz pose for a photograph during the keynote event in the west wing of the twenty-second floor of the Capitol during Guardian ad Litem Day on February 9, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida. Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Guests listening to the end of the keynote event in the west wing of the twenty-second floor of the Capitol during Guardian ad Litem Day on February 9, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida.

Ending the keynote event, Mag McGauley thanked all of the speakers and guests for attending and invited everyone to enjoy the luncheon provided by Catering by Judy before proceeding to their legislative conferences or remaining Senate committee meetings. The luncheon consisted of salad, marinated chicken breasts, rice pilaf, green beans, rolls and yellow cake.

As people queued for and made their way through the buffet, the keynote speakers and guests made their way around the room, shaking hands and talking. Special guests, staff, volunteers and community supporters all had a chance to meet, introduce colleagues, pose for photographs and discuss the issues in this inviting setting. The atmosphere was very upbeat and everyone was clearly enjoying this unique chance to engage together in one place.

Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Alan Abramowitz and Deborah Moore in the reception area of the twenty-second floor of the Capitol during Guardian ad Litem Day on February 9, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida. Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Brian Sealey and Gaby Edouard after the keynote event in the west wing of the twenty-second floor of the Capitol during Guardian ad Litem Day on February 9, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida.
Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Marcia Hilty and Leigh Merritt before the keynote speakers in the west wing of the twenty-second floor of the Capitol during Guardian ad Litem Day on February 9, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida. Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Deborah Moore and Omega Wynn after the keynote event in the west wing of the twenty-second floor of the Capitol during Guardian ad Litem Day on February 9, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida.

The luncheon began to thin out as participants went downstairs for the legislative conferences and sessions. In a matter of hours, Guardian ad Litem Day 2012 would draw to a close. By every account, this year's events including the pre-GAL Day training activities at the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee were a success. Thank you to everyone who came and took part in this fun and important event.

Be sure to check out the entire Guardian ad Litem Day 2012 photograph set on Flickr and follow us on Twitter for news and updates.

Special thanks to Claire Smith of Tallahassee for the loan of her camera equipment.

CORRECTION 2012-02-13: This article previously identified Bonnie Marmor incorrectly as Shara Weaver. Our apologies for the error.

Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Children in a tour group look at the eastern view from the twenty-second floor of the Capitol during Guardian ad Litem Day on February 9, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida.

Guardian ad Litem Day a Success

Under mostly clear skies on a cool day, volunteers, program staff, community supporters and special guests met at the Capitol in Tallahassee yesterday for the annual Guardian ad Litem Day.

In addition to raising public awareness via a table in the lobby of the Capitol, participants also met with their Representatives and Senators to discuss with them the mission, goals and importance of the program.

All of the keynote speakers were very well received, but it was former foster youth Gaby Edouard, able to turn his life around in a most positive way through the benefit of his guardian ad litem, who quite possibly stole the show. His message by way of personal experience exemplified the importance of dependent children having a guardian ad litem to represent their best interests.

Our complete report on the day's events, including the GAL Day 2012 photograph set will be available in an upcoming article. Look for that within the next few days. Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our blog RSS feed to find out when the article and pictures are available.

Thank you to everyone who participated, worked the event and made it a success!

UPDATE 2012-02-12: Read our GAL Day 2012 Event Report and view our photograph set.

GAL Day 2012 Countdown

It is right around the corner! Guardian ad Litem Day at the Capitol takes place this Thursday, February 9, 2012 and the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program is excited to be participating.

This annual event sponsored by the Florida Guardian ad Litem Foundation brings volunteers, members of the community and legislators together to discuss and expand awareness of the needs of Florida's dependent children.

“GAL Day 2012 is a great opportunity for our volunteers, staff and non-profit members to share the importance of our program with legislators.”


— Deborah Moore, Circuit Director

As we work toward the goal of having guardian ad litem representation for all dependent children in the next five years, it is as important as ever to remind our Senators and Representatives of the value of our program and rally their support.

Visit our GAL Day 2012 event flyer for the schedule of events—including the pre-GAL Day training events on Wednesday, February 8 at the First District Court of Appeal—parking information and contact details. You can also see the Foundation's event flyer on their website.

Even if you cannot attend, we will be live tweeting from the Capitol on Thursday—using the #GALday hashtag—and taking photographs for our new Flickr gallery. Following us on Twitter is a quick and easy way to get our latest news and updates.

Contact us if you plan to attend or have any questions. We hope to see you at the Capitol!

CONTACT
Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program
Deborah Moore
deborah.moore@gal.fl.gov
(850) 606-1218

Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office
Kelly Razzano
kelly.razzano@gal.fl.gov
(850) 922-7213

Ask a Mentor: Your Role in Court Hearings

Volunteer Question

I know I may sound foolish saying this, but I feel rather useless when I'm in court. I just stand there next to the attorney and volunteer supervisor and don't say anything. The attorney does the talking and the volunteer supervisor takes notes. In the end, I leave wondering what good it did for me to be there.

Mentor Answer

I should probably tell you to talk with your volunteer supervisor and the attorney, but I have a feeling you want to know what another volunteer thinks about being in court. I am going to talk about my experiences, but then you may still need to talk to the volunteer supervisor and the attorney with whom you are currently working.

I've been in court more times than I can count and there are times I leave feeling as you have described—but only for a few seconds. I then remind myself that by being present, I have heard firsthand what transpired and will not have to rely on secondhand information about court events affecting my child or children. I also remind myself that I am present in case something comes up about which I have information.

In one court hearing, during the exchange among the parties in a case being closed with the children placed with the mother, it occurred to me that I needed to assure the judge (there was no report for the hearing) that I had spoken to each child individually and that this was what they wanted. I whispered this to the attorney and she asked the judge to let me speak.

If you know in advance of something you wish to say directly to the judge—and not through the attorney—speak with the attorney about it prior to the case being heard. Judges and courts vary. Some judges want to hear from the guardian in most of the hearings. Prepare in advance what you think might be important to contribute or a specific point from your report that needs to be emphasized. Check with your attorney to find out whether they want to know in advance what you will be saying. You will certainly want to be present if your child comes to court. If the child wants to speak with the judge in chambers, you will be the one to go with the child.

Although you may not speak in court, it is your responsibility to provide via your volunteer supervisor important points for the attorney to have in mind when your case is called. This will be particularly important if it is a hearing for which you have not provided a report.

All in all, your role in court hearings—regardless of whether you actually speak—is critical.

Six Supporters Win Tally Awards

On Saturday, January 28, 2012, Capital City Youth Services hosted the 2012 Tally Awards Gala at the Tallahassee Automobile Museum and announced this year's winners. The Tally Awards are presented annually to Tallahassee's best businesses as voted by the people.

Congratulations to six of our community supporters who were among the winners!

Winner Category
Chick-fil-A Dining: Fast Food
Gordo's Cuban Cuisine Dining: Cuban
Kool Beanz Café Specialty: Locally Owned Restaurant
Kool Beanz Café Dining: American
Momo's Pizza Dining: Pizza
Patients First Medical Centers Medical: Walk-In Clinic
Starbucks Dining: Coffee Shop

Congratulations again to our great supporters and to all of this year's winners.

UPDATE 2012-04-15: Our latest community supporter, Sonny's Real Pit Bar-B-Q, also won a 2012 Tally Award in the Dining: Barbeque category.