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 July 2012 archive sorted chronologically with the newest at the top.

New Volunteer Documents, Website Updates

Original Photo Credit: Paul Goyette --- Untitled (boy and girl using a computer

We recently added four volunteer documents, two new website features and fixed several bugs.

Our resource page for current volunteers is the place to find guardian ad litem forms, documents, training materials, periodicals and more.

The following documents are now available there.

SB 1960 was passed unanimously by the House, the Senate and signed into law by Governor Rick Scott during the 2012 legislative session. Among other provisions, the bill created Florida Statute ยง 39.8296(2)(b)(7), permitting guardian ad litem volunteers to transport children represented by the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program.

The Transportation Guidelines document—effective as of June 1, 2012—clarifies who may transport children, the pre-qualification conditions that must be met by the volunteer and the process required to gain final authorization.

In collaboration with program staff, volunteers and youth in foster care, the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program developed and regularly updates the Standards of Operation document. The most recent update was published in early July 2012.

The standards exist "in order to ensure quality best interest advocacy for children while allowing individual circuit program offices the ability to be creative and innovative in order to expand representation and meet the needs of the children."

Following the normalcy training conference call on July 25, 2012, two new normalcy documents were made available to volunteers.

Normalcy Form 2 is an alternate version of the form designed to help guardians ad litem develop a written plan outlining the responsibilities and age appropriate activities for each youth ages 13–17 in foster care. The original version is now designated as Normalcy Form 1.

Normalcy Planning prepares a guardian ad litem for the process of a transitioning dependency case. After presenting a list of initial questions for the guardian ad litem to consider, the document breaks down their role in staffing meetings and hearings.

Two new website features were added to enhance our information resource and help spread the word, respectively. We also identified and eliminated several non-security related bugs.

Although our continuing education program features a different curriculum each fiscal year, materials from previous years are still excellent resources for volunteers. As such, the continuing education archive was created to house non-current continuing education documents for future reference.

Remember, the current continuing education curriculum is always available at https://gal2.org/ce and your hours can be submitted using our online form.

Share our blog posts via email or social network quickly and easily using the new Share This Article feature. Located beneath each article—in between the blue navigation box and the comments area—Share This Article currently supports email, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Tumblr and Twitter.

  • Bug Fixes

Five bug fixes were implemented correcting several non-critical issues. Should you ever find something not working as expected, please let us know.

We hope that you find the new resources and tools useful. Thank you for your support!

Eleven New Volunteer Guardians ad Litem Sworn In

On Monday, July 2, 2012, eleven volunteers were sworn in as guardians ad litem at the Leon County Courthouse in downtown Tallahassee.

Joining Circuit Director Deborah Moore in welcoming the new guardians ad litem and their guests were Assistant Circuit Director Leigh Merritt, Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program Executive Director Alan Abramowitz, current volunteers and members of the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program staff.

The ceremony began with brief remarks from Deborah Moore who thanked and congratulated the new volunteers. She introduced the members of her staff in attendance as well as the current volunteers who came to show their support. Moore also provided information on the program's current goals, progress and the I Am For the Child campaign.

In attendance both in his capacity as statewide executive director and as a volunteer guardian ad litem for our program, Alan Abramowitz discussed his own experience and relayed the value and importance of the work volunteers are doing, citing the results found in the "A Voice Heard" 2012 Status Report.

Following Abramowitz's remarks, the new volunteers approached the bench, formed a semi-circle and introduced themselves to the circuit judge presiding over the swearing in ceremony, the Honorable Karen Gievers.

Following the recent transfer of Judge Dawn Caloca-Johnson to the circuit criminal division, this was the first guardian ad litem swearing in ceremony for Judge Gievers. She is no stranger to our cause, however. As a longtime legal advocate for abused and neglected children, Judge Gievers was named one of the "Top Ten Lawyers in America" by the National Law Journal in 2000.

Judge Gievers spoke about her own experience and discussed the process from her perspective. After sharing her thoughts, Judge Gievers asked the new volunteers to raise their right hands and repeat the oath as administered.

Completing the ceremony, Judge Gievers congratulated the new guardians ad litem and the courtroom broke into applause. Before moving on to her next judicial proceeding, Judge Gievers took a few minutes to take photographs with and speak to the volunteers.

We are very proud of and thankful for all of our volunteers and the work that they do. Congratulations to our newest eleven volunteer guardians ad litem!

To see our photographs from this event, view the Volunteers Sworn In 2012-07-02 set on Flickr.

New Event: Uptown Cares Day

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.

Uptown Cares Day
Enjoy a delicious breakfast or lunch and support our program during Uptown Cares Day at Uptown Café and Catering. View the event flyer to learn more.

New Event: Training Conference Call on Normalcy

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.

The Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program is holding a training conference call for volunteer guardians ad litem. The topic of normalcy will be discussed in detail and participants will learn relevant information and skills. View the event flyer to learn more and RSVP.

Ask a Mentor: Guardians and Children in Court

Volunteer Question

I have carefully read the new rules for children in court and I have talked to my volunteer supervisor about my responsibility for determining whether it is in the best interest of a particular child to come to court.

I know that the decision to support a child who does not want to come to court must be made in consultation with the volunteer supervisor and attorney. I also realize that most of the time children will come.

What do you do about staying with the children until their case is called?

Mentor Answer

This requires your good judgment about the circumstances surrounding the case and the circumstances of that particular hearing.

For example, if the children have become comfortable being with you and are not especially close to the transporter who brought them to court, it would probably be wise to stay with the children whether inside or outside the courtroom.

In another situation, the children may be seeing their parents from whom they have been removed and are eager to visit with them until their case is called. If the dependency case manager or caregiver is staying outside to supervise, then you may want to go in the courtroom to monitor progress of the docket. Periodically you could go back outside to let the parties know how things stand.

In still a different situation, your case might involve a teenager who is very comfortable with the transporter and who has not yet become comfortable with you. The wait for the case to be called might work better for the teenager if you stayed only part of the time. If the wait is inside the courtroom, your decision might be different. Variations are extensive and you will have to be ready to adapt.

Remember you can always consult with your volunteer supervisor if you are not sure what is wise. However, you will always want to check to see if the children are present and speak to the parties. There may be questions they have of you—or that you have for them. If someone is missing, then find out the reason why.

In other words, feel comfortable about things before your case is called. If you are uncertain about what to do, a good rule is to opt for staying with the children.

New Event: Volunteer Training H

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 Training H
Volunteer guardians ad litem are required to complete thirty hours of pre-service training in order to become certified and undergo regular recertification. The training curriculum includes classroom learning, reading, court observation and practice activities. The sessions are typically scheduled over the course of six evenings, each lasting three and a half hours.

Continuing Education Resources Updated

The Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program requires all volunteers to complete a total of twelve (12) hours in-service continuing education each fiscal year to maintain certification.

Now that fiscal year 2012–2013 has started, current volunteers may start completing their hours for fiscal year 2013–2014.

Visit https://gal2.org/ce to read the new continuing education articles and submit your hours with the updated Continuing Education Form — a downloadable and printable version is also available.

In addition, previous years' articles and forms are now found in the Continuing Education Archive.

If you have any questions, send an email to christine.gornik@gal.fl.gov. Thank you for your support!