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 October 2013 archive sorted chronologically with the newest at the top.

Kudos: Robin Barrow

We really enjoy sharing Kudos posts, special thank you and congratulatory messages to our volunteers from program staff. In this instance, the kudos to our volunteer comes from a child advocacy coordinator in the neighboring Fourteenth Judicial Circuit.

In an email to our Circuit Director Deborah Moore, CAC Carol Ann Fischer shared her gratitude and spoke quite highly of our volunteer, Robin Barrow.

Good Morning Deborah:

I wanted to take a minute to send a quick thank you and hope you will please pass it on to your volunteer.

Your circuit has been providing courtesy for us on [a case] and Robin Barrow has been the [guardian ad litem volunteer]. She is excellent. We had a [termination of parental rights] trial this week and she came over for the trial and was a huge support for the child during her testimony.

She is an awesome volunteer and the fact that she took time to drive to [Panama City] for the trial and be here with the child is so wonderful.

Thank you so much and if you will please extend our thanks to Robin.

Carol Ann Fischer
Child Advocate Coordinator II
Fourteenth Judicial Circuit

Thanks to Carol Ann Fischer for sharing this with us and to Robin Barrow for her exemplary work!

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

Family In Need: Twin Bed [Fulfilled]

We regularly encounter families who are in need of living assistance but our resources are extremely limited. When special requests for essentials such as beds, linens, clothing and school supplies come in from families, our staff reach out to the community for help in fulfilling those needs.

If you can assist in fulfilling the below request or have any questions, please get in touch with the request contact. Thank you for your help!

  • Status
    Fulfilled
     
  • Request
    Twin Bed
     
  • Quantity
    One (1)
     
  • Narrative
    N/A
     
  • Contact
    Janay Davis
    janay.davis@gal.fl.gov
    (850) 606-1230
Update
2014-03-19: update status to "fulfilled"

Second Judicial Circuit Pet Therapy Program Example to Nation

Florida Courthouse Therapy Dogs Logo

One aspect of working cases that may surprise volunteer guardians ad litem is the use of animals to comfort children in court.

Founded in 2007, the Second Judicial Circuit's Pet Therapy in Courts Program is one of the largest in the country and provides a successful model to court systems nationwide and other judicial circuits in Florida, half of which currently have similar programs.

Trained by Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy, Second Judicial Circuit dog therapy teams provide support to children who are required to attend and/or testify at dependency hearings and other court proceedings.

"The goal of the program is to have the dogs provide comfort to reduce the victim's anxiety, resulting in more accurate testimony," says Susan Wilson, the program's founder and coordinator.

Dog therapy teams have been used successfully in over sixty criminal cases and over 125 dependency dockets. Thirteen additional teams were added in 2013, bringing to twenty the number of teams working in Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty and Wakulla counties.

What does all of this mean for child witnesses? The Pet Therapy in Courts Program helps to…

  • build rapport and trust with a child who is nervous, withdrawn and/or afraid;
  • reduce a child's anxiety and stress, thereby allowing them better recall and focus; and
  • put family members and guardians at ease, which helps a child before giving testimony.

To share the positive impact of therapeutic animals in the courts, the Pet Therapy in Courts Program recently produced a video and sent it to 2,500 state attorneys across the country along with a website and a list of local pet therapy teams that may be able to provide assistance.

"If we can help change [the] minds [of state attorneys] and help others begin their own programs, we can really make a difference," the Pet Therapy in Courts Program said in an email.

New Event, Added Community Supporter

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.

In addition, we are happy to recognize the Tallahassee Barristers Association as a community supporter for their annual contribution of Thanksgiving baskets for families in need.

Event Cancellation Announcement

Due to low registration and conflicting schedules, the following four continuing education training classes have been cancelled.

My JumpVault workshops will be presented again quarterly in 2014. GAL Computer Clinics will also be presented again in 2014.

Our apologies for any inconvenience.

Clarification of Age Requirement for Volunteers

We have refined the age requirements text across our website to provide further accuracy and clarification to prospective volunteers.

As described in our updated Standards of Operation, anyone wishing to become a guardian ad litem must be at least twenty-one years old, pass a criminal background and complete the thirty-hour pre-service training program.

Young adults nineteen or twenty years old may become certified and are allowed to work under the guidance of and in partnership with a guardian ad litem twenty-one or above.

  • Eighteen (18)
  • May not volunteer
     
  • Nineteen (19)
  • May volunteer; allowed to work under a certified guardian ad litem twenty-one or up
     
  • Twenty (20)
  • May volunteer; allowed to work under a certified guardian ad litem twenty-one or up
     
  • Twenty-One and Up (21+)
  • May volunteer

This text has been updated on various pages including the following.

We hope that this provides additional clarification to those considering volunteering with the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program.

Please let us know if you have any questions.

Twenty New Volunteers Sworn In As Guardians ad Litem

On Wednesday, October 23, 2013, twenty new volunteers — consisting of graduates from our July, August, September and October training classes — were sworn in as guardians ad litem at the Leon County Courthouse in downtown Tallahassee.

The ceremony began with Deborah Moore who welcomed, thanked and congratulated the volunteers. She introduced the members of her staff in attendance as well as the current volunteers who came to show their support.

Next to thank the volunteers and speak was the Honorable Judge George S. Reynolds III. During his brief talk, Judge Reynolds drew a comparison between guardians ad litem and judges as normal citizens who sometimes don a (metaphorical or real) robe and take on additional duties.

Judge Reynolds also discussed the process from the perspective of the bench, highlighting the importance, value and essential nature of guardians ad litem to the judicial processes to which they contribute.

Next, special guest Florida Senator William J. "Bill" Montford took a few minutes to speak to the volunteers and their guests. A former teacher, assistant principal, principal and county commissioner, Senator Montford has experience with our mission from various angles and expressed his appreciation to the volunteers.

Following Senator Montford's remarks, the volunteers approached the bench and formed a semi-circle in front of Judge Reynolds, Senator Montford and the circuit judge presiding over the swearing in ceremony, the Honorable Judge Martin Fitzpatrick.

While the Honorable Judge Karen Gievers has performed our guardian ad litem swearing in ceremonies since July 2012, she was presiding over a family court case hearing and was unable to attend. Fortunately, Judge Fitzpatrick was available and had the opportunity to address the volunteers prior to administering the oath.

After meeting and speaking to the volunteers, Judge Fitzpatrick asked them to raise their right hands and repeat the oath as administered. Finishing the ceremony, Judge Fitzpatrick congratulated the new guardians ad litem and the courtroom broke into applause.

Concluding the event, Judge Fitzpatrick, Judge Reynolds and Senator Montford posed for photographs with the volunteers and thanked them individually.

In attendance at the ceremony for WCTV Eyewitness News, Reporter Garin Flowers took the opportunity to speak to several volunteers and staff before interviewing Senator Montford and newly sworn in volunteer guardian ad litem Joanna Winters on camera.

Flowers' story aired on the 11:00 PM news on October 23, 2013. Earlier in the week, he also covered one of our continuing education events.

Thank you to Senator Montford and Legislative Assistant Taylor Gilbert for attending and welcoming our newest volunteers; Judge Fitzpatrick and Judge Reynolds for being able to participate at the last minute; WCTV and Garin Flowers for sharing our mission with their viewers; and our friends at Alaska CASA who on Twitter welcomed our new volunteers to the CASA family.

We are very proud of and thankful for all of our volunteers and the work that they do.

Congratulations to our newest volunteer guardians ad litem!

To see our fifty-eight photographs from this event, view Volunteers Sworn In 2013-10-23 on Flickr.

 

Are you interested in learning more about becoming a volunteer guardian ad litem?

Do you know someone who would make a great volunteer advocate for children?

Please help us in recruiting additional volunteers so that we can provide a guardian ad litem for each and every child that we represent. Visit gal2.org/mdday and join us for Make A Difference Day.

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 continuing education events have been recently added to our calendar.

Family In Need: Crib, Changing Table, Drawer Chest, Vacuum [Fulfilled]

We regularly encounter families who are in need of living assistance but our resources are extremely limited. When special requests for essentials such as beds, linens, clothing and school supplies come in from families, our staff reach out to the community for help in fulfilling those needs.

If you can assist in fulfilling the below request or have any questions, please get in touch with the request contact. Thank you for your help!

  • Status
    Fulfilled
     
  • Request
    Crib, Changing Table, Drawer Chest, Vacuum
     
  • Quantity
    One (1) each
     
  • Narrative
    N/A
     
  • Contact
    Jane Vollertsen
    jane.vollertsen@gal.fl.gov
    (850) 728-4537
Update
2015-12-21: update status to "fulfilled"