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

St. Lucie County in Need of Volunteer Guardians ad Litem

On Wednesday, December 19, 2012, TCPalm published an opinion piece calling to attention the need for volunteer guardians ad litem in St. Lucie County on the Treasure Coast of Florida.

According to the editorial, about 280 of the 665 children supervised by the court in St. Lucie County do not have a guardian ad litem.

"Rilya Wilson did not have a guardian ad litem representing her. Neither do more than 42 percent of the 665 children in St. Lucie County who are under court supervision. That's hundreds of children in difficult circumstances who don't have a guardian to give them a voice to tell the courts their feelings and their needs."

The board also spoke to Circuit Director Travis Erickson of the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program as well as one of their volunteers.

Describing how the program helps, Erickson said, "if a guardian is present on the case, then the guardian actually goes to court, and … has an attorney with them. Those two folks actually speak to the best interest of the child. They speak toward everything that may begin with a child needing a new pair shoes and increases all the way up to if the child should return to their parents."

You can read the entire editorial and learn more about the Nineteenth Circuit's program.

February and March Training Registration Now Open

On Sunday, December 2, 2012, we announced that our guardian ad litem volunteer training program was expanding to twelve classes annually, with schedules issued quarterly.

The announcement also included tentative training dates for the upcoming February and March sessions. Those dates are now official.

Check out the Volunteer Training M and Volunteer Training N event flyers for times, locations, printable flyers and to register.

Training dates for April, May and June will be released next month.

As a reminder, Volunteer Training L still has openings for its January sessions. The deadline to register is Tuesday, January 8, 2013.

Get your new year off to a great start and register today!

New Event: Advanced Skills Course 1

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 continuing education event was recently added to our calendar.

Advanced Skills Course 1
Part of a continuing education series produced by the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program, Advanced Skills Course 1 will provide volunteers with an understanding of court procedure and their role in the process.

New Events: Three Continuing Education Opportunities

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 continuing education events have been recently added to our calendar.

Training on Psychotropic Medications
The Second Judicial Circuit Model Court Team hosts three keynote speakers for a three-hour training course on psychotropic medications.

Exceptional Student Education Touchdown to Transition
Leon County Schools and the Big Bend Transition Council host a two-hour learning event on exceptional student education for students, parents, guardians and professionals.

Concurrent Case Planning Workshop
The Second Judicial Circuit Model Court Team hosts an all-day training event on concurrent case planning led by Kelly Lynn Beck of the Seneca Center for Children and Families.

Event Update: 2012 Holiday Wish List Drive

Sponsors still needed; volunteers asked to help with gift pickup and transport.

On Wednesday, December 5, 2012, Child Advocates II, Inc. (CAII) Board Secretary Stacey Burns provided board members and circuit staff with a second update on the 2012 Holiday Wish List Drive.

Every year, CAII works with local businesses, organizations and individuals throughout the Big Bend region to ensure that each and every one of the children represented by our program—many of whom are abandoned, abused or neglected—receive gifts this holiday season.

Now that we are past the wish list submission and gift drop off deadlines, CAII is working to find sponsors for the remaining children and provide logistics.

Sponsorship Update
The following are highlights from Burns' wish list drive update.

  • Wish lists received for 419 children — 219 families
  • 264 of the 419 children have been sponsored — that is 63%
  • Of the 155 children without sponsors, 53 have requested gift cards — an expense of $3,390
  • Two sponsors have offered donations toward gift cards, leaving $2,000 to be funded
  • The bowling tournament next week will provide toys for unsponsored children
  • Other groups are also collecting items; 30 shoebox gift boxes were recently received

Anyone wishing to make a donation should contact CAII at info@galf2.org or (850) 606-1200 immediately. CAII is available to answer your questions and organize your donation. They will need to know the number of children you wish to sponsor as well as any age/gender preferences.

Volunteer Opportunities
Burns also asked volunteers to consider helping with gift pick up, transportation and logistics.

If you are able to volunteer some time over the next two weeks, please contact Stacey Burns as soon as possible at info@galf2.org or (850) 606-1200.

There are only two weeks left to finish everything in time. Additional information and forms are available on the 2012 Holiday Wish List Drive event flyer.

Thank you for your support in helping to ensure that every child's holiday season is bright and filled with joy and happiness!

In Print: The Florida Bar News

Logo --- The Florida Bar

The December 2012 edition of the Florida Bar News features an article about Florida Guardian ad Litem Program Executive Director Alan Abramowitz's request to the Florida Legislature for an additional $3.9 million next fiscal year.

The article is presented below in case you missed it.

Thank you to the Florida Bar for featuring our program with their membership!

GAL program seeks an additional $3.9 million from the Legislature
By The Florida Bar News

Saturday, December 1, 2012
Florida Bar News

While Florida law dictates that courts appoint a guardian ad litem to every abused, abandoned, or neglected child, only 68 percent receive such an advocate.

The Florida Guardian ad Litem Program hopes to increase that figure to 75 percent within one year and to 100 percent within five years, said Alan F. Abramowitz, executive director of the GAL program.

With that goal in mind, the agency is asking for an additional $3.9 million in state funding for the 2013-4 fiscal year.

Abramowitz said with limited resources available, the program is forced to "triage" cases, providing GALs to those children deemed most in need.

"It's very difficult when we go to a group home to visit a child and see others who don't have a representative," Abramowitz said. "That's why we're fighting so hard to get additional funding."

The extra funds would support the program's "aggressive" recruitment efforts, Abramowitz said.

Those efforts, already underway, are part of an overhaul of the agency's structure, he said. Under the program's old model, paid staff managed large caseloads of about 45 dependent children, Abramowitz said. The new strategy expands the agency's use of volunteers. Rather than caseloads of children, paid staff would supervise about 38 volunteers each, who in turn represent about 75 children, he said.

In addition to serving more children, the new model allows the agency to provide higher quality and more intensive services to those children, Abramowitz said.

"You have one person focused on just one or two children," he said.

Abramowitz said children represented by volunteers return to foster care at a rate half that of children represented by staff with large caseloads. Children served by volunteers also tend to perform better in school, he added.

In 2012-13, GAL made the same request as this year and received a total of $32 million from the state, including a one-time increase of $1.8 million, he said.

The program is now asking the Legislature to continue appropriating the $1.8 million on an annual basis. The additional $2.1 million would provide salary increases for staff, which are appropriate for the jobs and functions they perform as managers of volunteers, Abramowitz said.

The agency has already begun a large recruitment effort.

In December 2007, about 55 percent of the program's children were represented by volunteers, Abramowitz said. Volunteers now represent 72 percent of children served by the agency, he said.

By the end of the year, Abramowitz added, the program should have about 9,000 volunteers.

"In 2007, we had 10 percent more money and 50 percent less volunteers," he said. "We're becoming more efficient."

Abramowitz encourages anyone interested in volunteering to visit the program's website at guardianadlitem.org.

"Attorneys do a great job," he said. "They have skills and training that allow them to think of those things that no one else is thinking about."

Copyright © 2012, The Florida Bar. All Rights Reserved.

2013 National CASA Conference and Awards of Excellence

Observing its thirty-second year, the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (CASA) annual conference is a chance for guardian ad litem program staff, board members, volunteers and other child welfare professionals to gain knowledge from educators through workshops and gain new contacts by networking with peers.

National CASA also uses this audience of over 1,200 to present six Awards of Excellence that "honor outstanding individuals and programs that provide hope to abused and neglected children" nationwide.

National CASA CEO Michael Piraino, pictured right, is typically a headliner keynote speaker who gives a full annual address at the conference.

National CASA Conference: Save the Date
The venue for the 2013 National CASA conference is the Anaheim Marriott Hotel, neighboring the Anaheim Convention Center and situated less than a mile south of Disneyland Park.

Events begin on Saturday, April 6 with a day of optional National CASA Institutes intensive training sessions. The conference officially kicks off on the morning of Sunday, April 7 and continues through midday Tuesday, April 9, 2013.

Registration rates are provisionally set at $350 with discounts for active volunteer advocates, groups and youths. Discounted hotel rates of $125 plus tax (or the prevailing government per diem rates at the time) will be available. Early registration and hotel booking is scheduled to start on Monday, December 10, 2012.

Helping to offset some guests' costs, sixty registration scholarships will be granted to select qualifying volunteers and program staff. Additional details on this program are slated to be announced sometime this month.

Subscribe to the National CASA newsletter to receive the latest conference news by email.

Awards of Excellence: Call for Nominations
On Monday, April 8, 2013, the conference will feature an awards ceremony and luncheon. Commemorating the exceptional contributions of dedicated child advocates in the United States, the National CASA Awards of Excellence are comprised of six categorized accolades recognizing one volunteer advocate, board member, program director, judge, program and initiative.

The process begins with your nomination of outstanding individuals and programs in the community. Visit the National CASA website to submit your nomination forms and supporting documentation.

Completed applications must be received by Monday, January 7, 2013 in order to be considered. Nominations are currently open for the following awards.

In addition to public recognition at the awards luncheon, all honorees will receive complimentary registration plus travel and hotel expenses for the conference.

Excluding Promising Practices Spotlight—the honoree of which may have an opportunity to make a presentation at the conference—award recipients also win $1,500 cash. The National CASA Association Inclusion Award honoree may also possibly present at the conference.

Be sure to recognize the hardworking individuals and programs in your community who exhibit the above attributes and submit your nominations today!

Icon: Calendar Link Events Summary Event Summary

Training Program Expanded, Upcoming Sessions Announced

Original Photo Credit: gal2.org --- Graduates of November's Volunteer Training J with circuit staff at the Leon County Court Annex in Tallahassee, Florida on November 15, 2012.
Photo: gal2.org

Volunteering to help others is one of the most popular New Year's resolutions.[1] We are excited to announce an improvement for next year that will make the process of becoming a volunteer guardian ad litem and providing a voice for a local child a bit more accessible.

Starting in January 2013, our guardian ad litem volunteer training program will be conducted every month. In addition, a three-month advance schedule will be released each quarter: in January, April, July and October.

Volunteer training—including classroom learning, reading, court observation and practice activities—is a requirement for all first-time and recertifying guardians ad litem. Seven training classes were offered this year. Graduates are later sworn in at the Leon County Courthouse.

By scheduling one quarter ahead and expanding to twelve classes annually, we will offer increased flexibility to volunteers and simplify the historically time-consuming scheduling process for staff.

The following tentative training dates have been set for February and March 2013. Event flyers with confirmed dates and times will be available soon when registration begins. [These dates are now official.] Training dates for April, May and June will be released next month.

  • Volunteer Training M
  • Wednesday, February 13
  • Saturday, February 16
  • Monday, February 18
  • Wednesday, February 20
  • Thursday, February 21
  • Volunteer Training N
  • Monday, March 4
  • Wednesday, March 6
  • Thursday, March 7
  • Monday, March 11
  • Wednesday, March 13
  • Thursday, March 14

As a reminder, Volunteer Training L still has openings for its January sessions. Registration for Volunteer Training K, which starts on Thursday, December 6, 2012, closes in two days on Tuesday, December 4, 2012.

Subscribe to the blog RSS feed or follow us on Twitter to find out when the event flyers are published and registration opens for Volunteer Training M and N, as well as when any other training dates and events are announced.

Please email christine.gornik@gal.fl.gov if you have any questions about our volunteer training program and to register for classes. Prospective volunteers need to complete an application before attending training.

Thank you to Volunteer Trainer Chris Gornik and the rest of our fantastic staff for developing and implementing these improvements!

[1] Popular New Year's Resolutions, U.S. General Services Administration, Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, Federal Citizen Information Center (Washington, D.C.: USA.gov, November 28, 2012).
Update
2012-12-12
: Added note about training date officialization and links to Volunteer Training M and Volunteer Training N.
 

New Event: Jeff Cameron Show Bowling Tournament for CAII

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.

Jeff Cameron Show Bowling Tournament for CAII
The Jeff Cameron Show and 97.9 FM ESPN Radio annual bowling tournament is a benefit event supporting the Child Advocates II (CAII) Holiday Wish List Drive, which ensures that each and every one of the children represented by our program in need of gifts this season receives them. View the event flyer below for more details and to register.

New Event: FDLE Child Abuse and Exploitation Investigations Training

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.

FDLE Child Abuse and Exploitation Investigations Training
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Network of Children's Advocacy Centers and the Children's Home Society of Florida present a two-day training program on Child Physical Abuse and Homicide Investigations and Child Sexual Exploitation Investigations. View the event flyer below for more details and to register.