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 2013 archive sorted chronologically with the newest at the top.

Kudos: Scott Barry

Kudos to volunteer guardian ad litem Scott Barry who continues to go far beyond the call of duty when it comes to supporting and advocating for the young man on his case.

Despite this being a very complicated and frustrating case, Scott has stuck it out with more patience than most would have. This past weekend, he attended a bowling trip that was set up for the child and his siblings that also happened to be the first interaction between the mother and son in months.

It could have been a disaster, but Scott wanted to be there for support and the visit was a success! This child is very lucky to have him as his guardian.

Original Photo Credit: WoodleyWonderworks --- thank you note for every language ('thank you' written in various languages)

Supportive School Discipline Webinar Series

United States Department of Justice Logo

The United States Department of Justice is hosting webinars of interest to volunteer guardians ad litem, program staff, educators and community members.

Launched in January 2013, the Supportive School Discipline Webinar Series works to "increase awareness and understanding" while also providing pragmatic "examples of school discipline practices that maintain school and classroom safety while ensuring academic engagement and success for all students."

The series is part of a larger effort to target and reform school disciplinary policies and practices, especially those that serve to "push youth out of school and […] into the justice system."

Webinars in the series are free, open to all registrants and will explore numerous topics including:

  • current school discipline philosophies, policies, and practices and emerging alternatives;
  • addressing truancy and absenteeism;
  • infusing restorative justice principles;
  • the role of school resource officers in supportive school discipline;
  • the promise of trauma-informed practices;
  • the importance of youth, family, and community engagement; and
  • the need for professional development across all stakeholders.

The Supportive School Discipline Webinar Series is coordinated by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and their partners, the Supportive School Discipline Communities of Practice and the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments.

You can watch past webinars in the series, register for future webinars and sign up for the JUVJUST listserv to get news and updates.

Attendees may be awarded hours of continuing education credit for participation in the webinars. Remember, you can report your hours online quickly and easily.

Highlights from Tampa Bay Rays Guardian ad Litem Night

On Wednesday, July 10, 2013, the Tampa Bay Rays celebrated Guardian ad Litem Night at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Prior to the start of the game with the Minnesota Twins, Rays first baseman James Loney and his wife Nadia were named as Honorary Guardians ad Litem by Executive Director Alan Abramowitz.

The honor is presented to "select community leaders who have gone to great lengths to support the program's mission and goals."

The Loneys recently established a partnership with the Guardian ad Litem Foundation of Tampa Bay, which supports the efforts of the Sixth Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program. They are also featured in a new public service announcement being broadcast in the Tampa Bay area to help with local volunteer recruitment efforts.

After the pre-game festivities, Abramowitz and a youth called Justin threw the ceremonial first pitch for the game, which the Rays went on to win 4–3.

You can see a photograph of the ceremonial first pitch below and watch the public service announcement.

Abramowitz and a youth called Justin throwing the ceremonial first pitch for the game

New Standards of Operation Available

On Wednesday, July 3, 2013, the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program published the latest revision of the Standards of Operation document, effective as of July 1, 2013.

All staff, volunteers and supporters should be familiar with the standards, which are designed to "inspire and empower volunteers and staff to say, 'I Am for the Child.'" Current versions of the standards and other documents are always available on the Current Volunteers page.

"As we approach 2015 and our 35th anniversary with the goal of more than 10,000 volunteers, I am looking forward to supporting our dedicated volunteers and staff who are there for the children and young adults not solely because it is their job, but because it's their passion in life," says Executive Director Alan Abramowitz.

"This document is a living and evolving document with the sole purpose of allowing our volunteers and staff to advocate for a child's best interest. I welcome your comments and thoughts to improve the standards."

You can download and read the Standards of Operation. You can also read a message from Executive Director Alan Abramowitz below.

From Alan Abramowitz

Dear Guardian ad Litem Volunteers, Staff, Youth and Supporters!

The Gold Standard for GAL: standards to inspire and empower volunteers and staff to say, "I Am for the Child."

"I Am for the Child" is the theme for these updated standards. I believe they reflect that we have listened to the children and young adults in foster care and that we heard their voices in developing these standards.

A guardian ad litem is so much more to a child than just their court advocate. A guardian ad litem volunteer often becomes a role model, mentor, educational surrogate, friend, confidant and most important, a consistent caring person on whom the child can rely. The standards reflect this high level of empowerment and lay the foundation for guardians and staff to make an even greater difference in the lives of children. The theme we consistently hear through the voices of children — "to the world you are one person, but to one person you are the world" — is supported by these standards.

As we approach 2015 and our 35th anniversary with the goal of more than 10,000 volunteers, I am looking forward to supporting our dedicated volunteers and staff who are there for the children and young adults not solely because it is their job, but because it's their passion in life. This document is a living and evolving document with the sole purpose of allowing our volunteers and staff to advocate for a child's best interest. I welcome your comments and thoughts to improve the standards.

Thanks for the important work each of you do for children. I value your commitment and dedication to ensure children's voices are heard and children have someone in their corner fighting for them.

These standards will allow each of you to say unequivocally "I Am for the Child."

Alan F. Abramowitz
Executive Director

Update
2013-07-28: added Abramowitz's complete letter announcing the standards.

In Print: GAL Volunteers Receive Gubernatorial Honor

On Monday, July 1, 2013, two guardian ad litem volunteers from Jacksonville were featured in the Jacksonville Financial News and Daily Record following their recognition by Governor Rick Scott.

Volunteering with the Fourth Judicial Circuit since November 2012, Henry and Charlean Lawton were honored with the Volunteer Florida Champion of Service Award on Tuesday, June 25, 2013 at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida.

You can see them accepting the award with Governor Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, Florida Guardian ad Litem Program Executive Director Alan Abramowitz and others in the photograph below.

The article is also reproduced below in case you missed it.

Henry and Charlean Lawton receiving the 'Volunteer Florida Champion of Service Award' with Governor Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, Florida Guardian ad Litem Program Executive Director Alan Abramowitz and others

Jacksonville couple honored for Guardian ad Litem service
by Joe Wilhelm Jr.
Monday, July 1, 2013
Jacksonville Financial News and Daily Record

Gov. Rick Scott recognized a Jacksonville couple Tuesday with the "Volunteer Florida Champion of Service Award" for their contributions to the Florida Guardian ad Litem program.

Henry and Charlean Lawton are a retired married couple who began volunteering with the 4th Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem program in November 2012.

Their dedication to the program and the children it serves moved program Director Melinda Brown to nominate the Lawtons for the award.

"It is an honor to present this award to Henry and Charlean Lawton, who are outstanding examples of the thousands of dedicated advocates representing children through the Florida Guardian ad Litem program," Scott said in a news release.

"The Lawtons are helping ensure that the children in their community can live up to their full potential, so they can get a great education and pursue their dreams here in Florida," he said.

The Lawtons said they were surprised to receive the award because of the short time they have volunteered with the program.

"They have been great volunteers that have shown a commitment to the program and the children. Whenever we have a situation we need stabilized, they are always willing to take it on," said James Minter, assistant program director.

The award honors individuals and groups for outstanding volunteer efforts.

"The award was humbling, but it's not about us. There are a lot of people working to address the needs of the child. We are just a part of that," said Charlean Lawton.

The Florida Guardian ad Litem Program is invoked by a court whenever a child is removed from a parent by the Department of Children and Families because a child was abused, neglected, abandoned or could not be kept safe in their home. The program currently represents approximately 21,350 children through 8,500 certified volunteers.

The local program is serving 926 children in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties with the help of 341 active volunteers.

The Lawtons had experience working with children — Henry as an ordained minister and Charlean through her church. Serving as a guardians has been a learning experience, they said.

"At times you just want to scream because you want to do something for the child, but it just can't be done," said Henry Lawton.

The program has become addictive for the couple.

"When you start (participating in the program), it's difficult not to do it, we always want to do more," said Charlean Lawton.

They have served as guardians for 11 children and are working on adoptions for four others.

The Lawtons shared stories of children asking for socks and underwear for Christmas or for someone to adopt them for Christmas.

"You've got to find a way to not think about it all the time, because you can," said Henry Lawton.

Minter said the number of kids in the program has been decreasing, but the severity of the abuse has been much worse than last year. The children come from homes where their parents may abuse drugs or alcohol, they are victims of or witness domestic abuse or they are abandoned.

"We are getting a lot of people saying,'We don't want them anymore,'" said Minter.

Henry Lawton talked about not wanting to say anything at the awards presentation with the governor, but changed his mind.

"I had to because the program is just that important. When children can't speak for themselves, an adult needs to be there to speak for them," he said.

"When you are the parent, you can't take that lightly. It's a life-changing experience," he said.

No special background is required to volunteer and staff and legal support are provided.

Volunteers must be at least 21 years of age and successfully complete 30 hours of certification training, six hours annually of re-certification training, spend an average of 10 hours per month working on the case and make at least a one-year commitment to the program.

jwilhelm@baileypub.com     @photojoe71     (904) 356-2466

Copyright © 2013, Bailey Publishing & Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In Print: Our New Child's Best Interest Attorney

On Thursday, June 13, 2013, a new employee of the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program was featured in the Tallahassee Democrat.

The Democrat's regular "Briefcase" feature, described as a "roundup of openings, new hires, appointments and promotions in the business community," reported on the addition of Carolyn DeVita to our staff as Child's Best Interest Attorney.

The piece is reproduced below in case you missed it.

Briefcase: Law
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Tallahassee Democrat
Page 6A

Carolyn DeVita has joined the Guardian ad Litem Program as the new Child's Best Interest Attorney. DeVita will work in the Guardian ad Litem Program main office in the Leon Court Annex, providing best interest legal representation for abused and neglected children in the 2nd Judicial Circuit.

Scan of Tallahassee Democrat piece

Copyright © 2013, Tallahassee Democrat. All Rights Reserved.

New Events: Continuing Education 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 events have been recently added to our calendar.

New Event: Guardian ad Litem Bookfair

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.

Guardian ad Litem Bookfair
Buy books and support children in the community at our monthly Guardian ad Litem Bookfair. Use our vouchers at purchase and a portion of your sale will be donated to us. View the event flyer to learn more and download your vouchers.

Donate Items in the School Supply Drive for Guardian ad Litem

Farmers and Merchants Bank Logo

As the next school year draws closer, we need your help to ensure that the children represented by our program have the school supplies that they need. The annual guardian ad litem school supply drive helps us to meet this goal.

Since our program represents children of varying ages, we need supplies of all varieties including notebooks, paper, pencils, erasers, crayons, backpacks and the like as appropriate for elementary, middle and high school students.

Community supporter Farmers and Merchants Bank serves as our annual collection partner.

"We are pleased to be sponsoring the volunteers and children again this year," said FMB Assistant Branch Manager Patti S. Evans.

Visit one of the below Tallahassee area FMB locations to drop off your donated supplies during normal business hours. You will find decorated collection boxes on display in the lobby (see photographs of two drop off locations).

The guardian ad litem school supply drive continues throughout the month of July.

Thank you to FMB for their continued support and to everyone for your kind donations of school supplies for children in our community.

Update
2013-07-27: added deadline reminder to top of article.
2013-08-31: added link to photograph set and removed deadline reminder from the top of article.

Remaining 2013 Volunteer Training Schedule Announced

Original Photo Credit: Unknown --- Fourth of July (two boys with sparklers standing in front of a U.S. flag)

The Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program is proud to announce the volunteer training program schedule for the remainder of the year.

Our monthly training program, which includes classroom learning, reading, court observation and practice activities, is a requirement for all first-time and recertifying guardians ad litem.

You can learn more about the upcoming 2013 training sessions and register to participate by viewing the appropriate event flyer below. Each month's training is conducted over six days from 5:30 PM to 9:00 PM.

  • Volunteer Training T
  • Monday, August 5
  • Wednesday, August 7
  • Thursday, August 8
  • Monday, August 12
  • Wednesday, August 14
  • Thursday, August 15
  • Volunteer Training U
  • Monday, September 9
  • Wednesday, September 11
  • Thursday, September 12
  • Monday, September 16
  • Wednesday, September 18
  • Thursday, September 19
  • Volunteer Training V
  • Monday, October 7
  • Wednesday, October 9
  • Thursday, October 10
  • Monday, October 14
  • Wednesday, October 16
  • Thursday, October 17
  • Volunteer Training W
  • Monday, November 4
  • Wednesday, November 6
  • Thursday, November 7
  • Monday, November 11
  • Wednesday, November 13
  • Thursday, November 14
  • Volunteer Training X
  • Monday, December 2
  • Wednesday, December 4
  • Thursday, December 5
  • Monday, December 9
  • Wednesday, December 11
  • Thursday, December 12

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.