On Wednesday, April 23, 2014, nine new volunteers — consisting of graduates from our February, March and April training classes — were sworn in as guardians ad litem at the Leon County Courthouse in downtown Tallahassee.
The ceremony began with special guest Alan Abramowitz, Executive Director of the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program, who welcomed, thanked and congratulated the volunteers.
In addition to his leadership of the statewide program, Abramowitz is also a volunteer guardian ad litem here in the Second Judicial Circuit.
Abramowitz used his opening remarks to provide an update on the current legislative session and talk about Senate Bill 744 — the Keys to Independence Act — which unanimously cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee the day prior. Among its provisions, the bill allows for youth ages sixteen and up to obtain a court order granting the ability to contract for automobile insurance under their own name after completing driver's education.
Next to thank the volunteers and speak was the Honorable Judge George S. Reynolds III. While the Honorable Judge Karen Gievers was scheduled to perform the swearing in, she was presiding over a court case hearing and was unable to attend.
Judge Reynolds 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. He also specifically noted the importance of the case reports guardians ad litem write, referring to them as a vital tool when making a ruling.
Moving on to the formal ceremony, the volunteers formed a semi-circle in front of Judge Reynolds who asked them to raise their right hands and repeat the oath as administered. Completing the oath, Judge Reynolds congratulated the new guardians ad litem and the courtroom broke into applause.
The volunteers joined Judge Reynolds and Abramowitz for some photographs before being invited to sit for some concluding remarks plus a special presentation. Volunteer Trainer Christine Gornik and Volunteer Recruiter Sara Blumenthal each took a few minutes to give their thanks, followed by Abramowitz who provided a contextual lead-in to the special presentation.
One of the statewide program's legislative goals during the 2012 session was the passage of SB 1960, creating a statute permitting guardian ad litem volunteers to transport children represented by the program. Abramowitz was therefore pleased to recognize volunteer Ann Leftwich, the one-hundredth volunteer approved to drive children under this law, and present her with a congratulatory certificate.
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!