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

CAII Joins FindLearnGive.org to Help Promote Our Mission

Logo: FindLearnGive.org (an initiative of the Community Foundation)

Child Advocates II, Inc. (CAII), the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established to support our program, has created a new online profile to help promote our mission, recruit volunteers and solicit monetary donations.

On Wednesday, November 20, 2013, CAII joined FindLearnGive.org and published an organization profile. A service of the Community Foundation of North Florida, FindLearnGive.org is a curated database of nonprofit organizations that exists to help individuals find charitable causes in the community.

You can see the CAII profile on FindLearnGive.org and head to our Donate page to learn about becoming a CAII Partner CAII Partner or to donate online.

Thank you to the volunteers of CAII for their ongoing support of our program!

New Events: Continuing Education Training

We regularly host, sponsor and support a variety of events that provide community outreach, increase awareness of our program, help recruit new volunteers, raise funds and furnish training to our volunteer guardians ad litem. The following events were recently added to our calendar.

Icon: Book Continuing Education

New Event: CAII at the Alternative Christmas Market

We regularly host, sponsor and support a variety of events that provide community outreach, increase awareness of our program, help recruit new volunteers, raise funds and furnish training to our volunteer guardians ad litem. The following events were recently added to our calendar.

Icon: Special Events Special Events

New Events: Continuing Education Training

We regularly host, sponsor and support a variety of events that provide community outreach, increase awareness of our program, help recruit new volunteers, raise funds and furnish training to our volunteer guardians ad litem. The following events were recently added to our calendar.

Icon: Book Continuing Education

New Events: Fundraiser and Continuing Education

We regularly host, sponsor and support a variety of events that provide community outreach, increase awareness of our program, help recruit new volunteers, raise funds and furnish training to our volunteer guardians ad litem. The following events were recently added to our calendar.

Icon: Fundraising Fundraising
Icon: Book Continuing Education

In Print: Guardian ad Litem — A Chance to Make a Difference

On Sunday, November 10, 2013, an article written by guardian ad litem volunteer Leigh Merritt was published in the Active Living section of the Tallahassee Democrat.

Merritt is a long-time supporter of the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program. Starting her relationship with the program in 2000 as a volunteer, Merritt joined our staff in 2002 and served as assistant circuit director from 2006 to 2012.

Although missed since her departure for the Office of the State Courts Administrator, Merritt continues to be a valuable part of our program as a volunteer and supporter.

Thank you to Leigh Merritt for her public outreach and to the Tallahassee Democrat for sharing our program with their readers.

The article is presented below in case you missed it.

Guardian ad Litem offers a chance to make a difference
by Leigh Merritt

Sunday, November 10, 2013
Tallahassee Democrat
Active Living

Staying involved with the community is essential for many of us. The Guardian ad Litem program is proud to have a wide age range of volunteers.

Stuart Zirin, GAL Volunteer, shares his experience: "Volunteering with the Guardian ad Litem Program has been one of the most fulfilling activities of my life. Making a positive difference in children's lives makes me feel a sense of great satisfaction and accomplishment. As a retired person, rather than being idle and non-productive, the program has given me opportunities to remain active and socially engaged."

What is required? A 30-hour training is offered every month; home visits, family interviews and court appearances take about 8–10 hours a month — the average time commitment.

What support is offered? Peer Mentor is assigned to every new volunteer; there is a team approach with staff on each case; and there is an annual volunteer awards ceremony.

Volunteer Dot Binger has this to say of her experience with Guardian ad Litem: "When I began to think about retiring, I realized I had to continue being involved with the welfare of children and youth. After all, I had spent 45 years teaching young people. In 1989, I learned about the Guardian ad Litem Program and its only purpose — that of advocating for the best interest of abused and neglected children. That was it as far as I was concerned — where I need to be involved! The passion for doing this advocacy has remained with me for 24 years, and I find that retirement has a great purpose."

Volunteers Dot Binger and Leigh Merritt will be guests at Chaires/Dorothy C. Spence Community Center on November 26. Bring your questions and join us for lunch!

Next volunteer training begins Dec. 2. To apply, call 850-606-1218, or go to www.gal2.org.

Copyright © 2013, Tallahassee Democrat. All Rights Reserved.

Scan of Tallahassee Democrat article by Leigh Merritt, November 10, 2013

Seminoles Football Team Hosts Special Event for GAL Children

On Tuesday, October 8, 2013, the Florida State Seminoles football program hosted a behind the scenes tour for the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program.

Arranged by our nonprofit organization Child Advocates II, Inc. (CAII), this special event gave program-represented children and youth an opportunity to have fun, learn about the Seminoles and see firsthand the importance of studying hard and doing well in school.

Participating children, volunteer guardians ad litem and staff first met up in the Great Hall at the Coyle E. Moore Athletics Center, situated on the north side of Doak S. Campbell Stadium in University Center Building D.

The Great Hall features tributes to student athletes, photographs and artifacts from notable and historic moments and, encased in touch-sensitive glass, the 1993 and 1999 American Football Coaches Association National Championship trophies.

See the FSU Football Tour 2013-10-08 photograph set on Flickr.
Please note that this public set is incomplete due to privacy considerations. Please contact our office if you took part in the event and would like a copy of the eighty-seven additional photographs.

Everyone had a chance to browse the collection before our guide for the day, Coordinator of Student Services Ochuko Jeniji, arrived and got things started. Before taking this role, Jeniji was himself a Seminole footballer playing cornerback and then safety between 2006 and 2010.

Our tour began with Jeniji providing an overview of FSU athletics, using several of the items in the Great Hall as examples. We next moved up to the second floor, pausing along the atrium to look down at the Great Hall from above and see the large stained-glass window.

The three-story, 30-by-20-foot window commemorates the naming of Bobby Bowden Field and was unveiled at that same ceremony, just before the FSU v. Florida game on November 20, 2004. Consisting of 112 individual panels and 8,500 pieces of glass, the window was created by Robert Bischoff, Jo Ann Bischoff and twelve FSU students in the Master Craftsman Program.

Aside: Seminoles fans will no doubt recall that particular rivalry matchup wherein the Gators — helmed by short-lived coach Ron Zook in his final regular-season game — upset Florida State 20-13, the first Tallahassee win for Florida in eighteen years.

Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Tributes to student athletes and the stained-glass window in the Great Hall from the second floor of the Coyle E. Moore Athletics Center at Doak S. Campbell Stadium in University Center Building D in Tallahassee, Florida on October 8, 2013. Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- The team achievement board that tracks certain criterion for each game in the Football Projection Room at the Coyle E. Moore Athletics Center at Doak S. Campbell Stadium in University Center Building D in Tallahassee, Florida on October 8, 2013.

Leaving the atrium and proceeding down a corridor, our group next arrived at the Football Projection Room, a large, cinema-style space with 156 seats and a multimedia projection system. This room is used by the team to discuss past and future performances as well as entertain groups like ourselves. Taking their seats, the participants were treated to a screening of a short film about Florida State athletics and then had an opportunity to ask Jeniji questions.

As a result, we heard about the meetings regularly held in the room and the achievement board, used by the team to track whether or not certain criterion are met (such as "no turnovers" and "average four yards per rush") during each game. The children also got to hear about Jeniji's own experience at FSU and the rigorous academic and athletic schedules each student athlete must maintain to succeed.

Curious as to its seemingly unusual presence in this locale, one youth wondered why a Clemson Tigers "tiger paw" logo was displayed on a whiteboard. The display of a non-FSU team logo here turns out to be part of a simple method to remind the Seminoles which opponent they next face.

Next, the group moved through another series of corridors leading us to the Jim and Linda Owens Multi-Purpose Room. As the name implies, this room is used for a variety of training roles but is carpeted in artificial turf for the football team. Jeniji spoke for a few minutes while students were using the room to perform calisthenics and stretching routines.

Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Ceremonial banners celebrating significant wins on display in the Roger Holler Champions Training Complex at the Coyle E. Moore Athletics Center at Doak S. Campbell Stadium in University Center Building D in Tallahassee, Florida on October 8, 2013. Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Florida State Seminoles customized Power-Lift training equipment in the Roger Holler Champions Training Complex at the Coyle E. Moore Athletics Center at Doak S. Campbell Stadium in University Center Building D in Tallahassee, Florida on October 8, 2013.

Crossing the room to exit, the group emerges on a metal stairway platform overlooking the Roger Holler Champions Training Complex. This large space with high ceilings contains rows and rows of various professional exercise and training equipment. Ceremonial banners celebrating significant wins adorn this mostly metal and cinder block facility and a television scrolls various information, including the current rankings of FSU sports teams.

Carrying on, we walked to an open-air walkway beneath the stadium and proceeded along until emerging inside the stadium itself. Walking out into the Section One seating area at the stadium's northern end zone, the group had a chance to see where a new attendance record of 84,409 would soon be set (during the FSU v. Miami game on November 2, 2013).

After posing for a group photograph, we left the stadium via Gate M and moved north toward Dick Howser Stadium, home of Seminoles baseball. Gathering around a fenced-in area outside the gates of the football practice field, we learned about a long-standing team practice: the Sod Cemetery.

Issued as a challenge to the 1962 Seminoles at practice before a game against the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens, professor and athletic board member Dean Coyle Moore said to "bring back some sod from between the hedges at Georgia." Returning victorious after an 18-0 shutout with some grass from the field at Sanford Stadium, the team buried the sod at the practice field as a symbol of victory.

Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Markers of the Sod Cemetery at the Albert J. Dunlap Athletic Training Facility football practice fields in Tallahassee, Florida on October 8, 2013. Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- There is no interruption in the artificial turf from the outdoor football practice fields and the large indoor training facility at the Albert J. Dunlap Athletic Training Facility in Tallahassee, Florida on October 8, 2013.

The plaque on display explains that "since that time, each week before leaving for games away from home in which Florida State is the underdog, all University of Florida road games and all conference championship and bowl games, Seminole captains gather their teammates at the cemetery to tell them about this tradition." Those captains who return victorious do so with some sod and add it, along with a marker, to the ever-growing tribute now fifty-one years old.

Even as we proceeded with Jeniji on the tour, the children were unaware that our ultimate destination would include a chance to watch the team practice and then meet the players and coaches. That destination awaited us just beyond the Sod Cemetery.

Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Vic Viloria inside the 92,000-square foot Albert J. Dunlap Athletic Training Facility in Tallahassee, Florida on October 8, 2013. Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Inside the 92,000-square foot Albert J. Dunlap Athletic Training Facility in Tallahassee, Florida on October 8, 2013.

Advancing onto the outdoor practice fields and then into the new 92,000-square foot Albert J. Dunlap Athletic Training Facility, the group got their first glimpse of the team in person. The artificial turf of the practice fields runs continuously through the doors right into the massive building. As the group took in the size of the indoor training facility, Jeniji talked about how it will allow practices to proceed uninterrupted during inclement weather.

While there, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Vic Viloria walked over and introduced himself, interacted with the children and posed for a few photographs. He said that the team would be finishing their practice soon and that we should watch them from the sidelines; they would be over to say hello shortly.

An assistant passed out "Plant Yourself in Doak" team posters and black permanent markers to each of the children. They watched excitedly as the practice finally wrapped and the players started to come our way.

Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Guardian ad litem guest and volunteer Jan Watford with Florida State Seminoles football players at the Albert J. Dunlap Athletic Training Facility football practice fields in Tallahassee, Florida on October 8, 2013. Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Guardian ad litem guest with Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jameis Winston (5) at the Albert J. Dunlap Athletic Training Facility football practice fields in Tallahassee, Florida on October 8, 2013.

In a scene this author hypothesizes had the similitude of a Hollywood red carpet event, the excitation was palpable as the children with wide smiles each got to meet the players, shake hands, give high fives, get autographs and pose for pictures. Even though they had just completed a multi-hour outdoor practice with temperatures in the mid-eighties, the players were outgoing and eager to interact.

The players took their stardom in stride as perfect gentlemen, ensuring that the experience was fun for the kids. One of the younger children was having so much fun, he made a real impression on all of the players. One of them even gave the child his professional-looking Nike gloves!

Remembering that our program works to advocate for and provide a voice to abandoned, abused and neglected children, one can imagine the positive impact an experience like this might have. An enjoyable and memorable event like this clearly made a difference and is no doubt still being discussed by the children as the Seminoles continue this season undefeated 9-0.

We would like to express our thanks and gratitude to Florida State University, the Seminoles Football Program, players and staff, Ochuko Jeniji, Brian Sealey, CAII and our great volunteers and staff for putting this event on and making the day special for our program's children.

Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Guardian ad litem guest with a Florida State Seminoles football player at the Albert J. Dunlap Athletic Training Facility football practice fields in Tallahassee, Florida on October 8, 2013. Original Photo Credit: David July/gal2.org --- Guardian ad litem guest with Florida State Seminoles quarterback Jacob Coker (14) at the Albert J. Dunlap Athletic Training Facility football practice fields in Tallahassee, Florida on October 8, 2013.

New Continuing Education Article for 2014–2015 Added

One way that volunteer guardians ad litem can earn continuing education credit hours is to read a select group of articles, documents and presentations on our website.

While the entire group of articles for fiscal year 2014–2015 are not ready, a new article called "Out of Foster Care, Into College" by Michael Winerip is now available. Volunteers are also encouraged to read though the comments section, as many contain a lot of useful information.

We have also added a new link to the Additional Resources section for volunteers.

Child Victim Web is a new resource by the Medical University of South Carolina that includes training on the scope and impact of childhood victimization, evidence-based treatment plans and best practices for helping victimized youth and their families.

Volunteers who read "Out of Foster Care, Into College" and its comments may receive one (1) hour of continuing education credit. Remember, you can report your hours online quickly and easily.

As always, we will announce future additions and updates here on the blog, Twitter and Facebook. If you have any questions about continuing education, please email christine.gornik@gal.fl.gov.