Alan Abramowitz, Director of the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program, meets with his advisory committee — the Statewide Director's Volunteer Advisory Committee (DVAC) — comprised of a volunteer from each of the twenty circuits, by way of monthly conference calls. Alan, as he is known by his multitude of contacts and all who work with him, states that his goals for this committee include getting information quickly out into the field and getting information from the field through the volunteers on the DVAC.
Major legislative initiatives discussed with the DVAC during 2013 included the normalcy bill, foster care extension to age twenty-one, attorneys ad litem for youth in nursing homes and budget proposals. The budget proposal involves a three-year plan for reaching the goal of 100% representation of children by the thirty-fifth anniversary of the program.
In the 2014 legislative session, Alan also hopes to make progress on legislation that will allow youth to drive. Insurance is a major issue to be resolved. Other legislation that affects youth, such as KIDS (protection of identifying information for youth), is always closely monitored by Alan. He constantly stresses the importance of volunteers talking with legislators and testifying before legislative committees.
Revision of the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program Standards [download] was a major initiative of 2013. DVAC members were urged to give careful study to all of the standards but to pay particular attention to those which were under revision or being added. Revisions were discussed during the conference calls and Alan was responsive to all the suggestions or concerns submitted to him by committee members.
Another initiative for the year was revision of the Scorecard and renaming it Performance Advocacy SnapShot (PASS). The measures reported on PASS allow the circuits to know how they are performing in critical areas such as retention of volunteers. Again, Alan carefully considered comments from DVAC members as the revision process was underway.
Throughout the year, Alan reported on a variety of issues affecting the program and about guardian ad litem initiatives and events. Among others, these were discussed: guardian ad litem leadership tracking of the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) transformation goal and safety methodology; various recognitions of the program; plans for the 2013 awards reception; new plan for three regional award receptions; issues related to resignation of head of DCF; plans for celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Guardian ad Litem Program; quality improvement reviews for circuits; and partnering with Children's Week rather than having a separate guardian ad litem week.
Following each conference call, the Second Judicial Circuit representative on the DVAC reports to the circuit volunteer/recruitment committee so that the volunteer base for linking with state leadership is broadened.
DVAC members are encouraged to ask questions and introduce issues of concern. One participant spoke of her concern that the judge ignored a recommendation made by both DCF and the guardian ad litem regarding a child and ruled differently. Alan responded that we cannot "win" all the time but that we have to advocate all the time.
Be reminded that Alan is a certified volunteer in the Second Judicial Circuit and experiences firsthand the work and challenges of a guardian ad litem volunteer and the impact of that guardian's advocacy on the permanency outcomes for a child. Alan continually and forcefully advocates on many fronts for the important work of the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program.
Dorothy "Dot" Binger is a longtime volunteer for and supporter of the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program. She currently serves as our DVAC volunteer representative and chair of the Volunteer Advisory Committee. She can be reached at dotbingercomcast.net.