On Tuesday, July 30, 2013, one of our volunteer guardians ad litem received another recognition of her outstanding service to children.
Janet "Jan" Watford was revealed today to be latest "Face of CASA" in the National Court Appointed Special Advocates Association's nationwide recognition campaign.
National CASA's "35 Faces of CASA for Children" acknowledges outstanding individuals and programs honored for their dedication and service to children. Watford's story is the twenty-seventh to be featured by National CASA, telling "stories of the people who are making life better for abused and neglected children."
Back in April 2013, Watford was recognized by the Tallahassee Democrat as their Volunteer of the Year. As a result, she represented herself and our program in June 2013 at the Jefferson Awards for Public Service gala in Washington, D.C., where she again won for her work. Later that month, she was named Volunteer of the Year by the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program.
Jan Watford: Jefferson Award-Winning CASA Volunteer
by National CASA Association
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
35 Faces of CASA for Children
Jan Watford has cradled newborns who are in the throes of meth withdrawal. She's told angry teens she doesn't blame them for trying to push her away — again and again. Every child she advocates for as a guardian ad litem might as well be flesh and blood.
"I would go to the ends of the earth to make sure they are receiving what they need and more," Jan says.
Jan has worked with more than 21 children during her seven years as a volunteer in Florida's guardian ad litem program, where she also serves as a peer mentor for new volunteers. This past spring, she won a prestigious Jefferson Award, the nation's highest honor for community service, after being named the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper's Volunteer of the Year.
Deborah Moore, director of Florida's Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program, nominated Jan, describing her as a tireless and passionate advocate for kids, especially those who are "aging out" of the foster care system.
"Everyone who meets and talks with Jan is always impressed with how persistent and relentless she can be," Moore wrote. "Jan is intent on making sure the older youth she advocates for continue to benefit from support and guidance."
Take a young, autistic man named Cody. When he turned eighteen and had to move out of the group foster home where he'd been living for years, Jan helped him find his own apartment, showed him how to follow a budget, how to find the best deals at the grocery store, and how to organize his paperwork.
After three years of Jan's patient mentoring, he now cooks his own meals, cleans his apartment, and washes his own clothes. Every now and then, when he gets lost or flustered, he'll call Jan. He knows her number by heart.
"That's the one thing he's never forgotten," Jan says. "I ask all my kids to memorize my number, so they'll always have a way to reach me if they need to."
Quan, another of Jan's guardian ad litem kids, kept his distance from Jan for years. When she kept showing up and telling him she was there for him, he'd cast suspicious looks her way, as if to say, "Why isn't she going away? Everybody else goes away. I'm going to do things to make her go away."
"I told him I'm not going away," Jan says. "It took him six years to believe that."
Today, Quan is making steady progress toward getting his GED and plans to go enroll in the local community college after that.
Quan's older brother, James, whom Jan also represented as a guardian ad litem, sung her praises at a Black History Month celebration hosted by Florida's Department of Children and Families. The crowd gave Jan a standing ovation after he talked about what a difference she had made in their lives.
"The work I do is a labor of love," Jan says.
Copyright © 2013, National CASA Association.