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 2014 archive sorted chronologically with the newest at the top.

Website Update Roundup

Original Photo Credit: Lizette Greco --- Pudú Updated (a stuffed animal posed at a notebook computer)

We regularly add new material and update existing resources on our website, plus media on Flickr and YouTube.

This roundup provides a summary of updates published from Wednesday, 16 July 2014 through Sunday, 27 July 2014.

You can keep up with all of our news on your computer, tablet or smartphone by subscribing to our RSS feed, following us on Twitter or liking us on Facebook.

Page Updates

New Media

New Blog Posts

New Events

State Representative Named Honorary Guardian ad Litem

On Wednesday, July 23, 2014, the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program statewide office issued a press release announcing the naming of an honorary guardian ad litem.

The text of this announcement is presented below in case you missed it.

State Representative Charles McBurney Named Honorary Guardian ad Litem
by Alan Abramowitz

Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Press Release

State Representative Charles McBurney of Jacksonville was recently named by the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program (GAL) as an Honorary Guardian ad Litem for his commitment to advocacy for abused and neglected children in Florida.

In announcing the award, GAL Executive Director Alan Abramowitz noted that Representative McBurney has shown his dedication to Florida's Guardian ad Litem Program through his leadership as chairman of the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee and Chair of the Budget Conference Committee on Criminal and Civil Justice, where he successfully championed increased funding for the GAL Program during the past two legislative sessions.

Representative McBurney has consistently promoted the expansion of the Guardian ad Litem Program as we strive to reach the goal that every one of Florida's dependent children can have a volunteer advocate. Rep. McBurney is an advocate for expansion of small business opportunities and improving Pre-K–higher education.

When presented with the award, Rep. McBurney said, "I am honored to stand with more than 9,000 Floridians who give their time and their hearts to advance the best interests of abused children. The GAL Program is a great example of a public-private partnership that makes a difference for kids in Florida."

For additional information about Florida's Guardian ad Litem Program, visit www.guardianadlitem.org.

Child Advocates II Hosts 'Beyond the Basics' School Drive

CAII Beyond the Basics

A new fundraising project benefiting children in our community recently kicked off just in time for the new school year.

Beyond the Basics is a Child Advocates II, Inc. (CAII) drive to fund activities and provide items that enrich a child's school experience, those moments that make the school years something to be enjoyed and fondly remembered.

Donations made to Beyond the Basics will support things like athletics, band, cheerleading, field trips, supplies and other school activities for children represented by our program.

You can learn more about this project and make donations on the Beyond the Basics page.

All donations are tax deductible.

Beyond the Basics is a project by Child Advocates II, Inc., the 501(c)(3) not for profit, all-volunteer organization founded in 1988 to support the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program.

With your generous contributions, more youth in the community will have a chance to experience their school years fully and become more well-rounded adults.

Thank you in advance for your donations and to CAII for hosting the drive!

Family In Need: Vacuum Cleaners [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
    New vacuum cleaners
     
  • Narrative
    Several families do not currently have a functioning vacuum cleaner in their home.
     
  • Contact
    Deborah Moore
    deborah.moore@gal.fl.gov
    (850) 606-1218
    (850) 294-7545
Update
2016-02-14: update status to "fulfilled"

Ready to Drive

Recently, thousands of youth got one step closer to obtaining what many consider one of the most important cards that will ever be in their wallet — a driver's license.

"Every fifteen or sixteen-year-old should be able to have a permit and it is something kids in foster care haven't been able to have," Guardian ad Litem Program Executive Director Alan Abramowitz said. "This isn't about driving. It's about normalcy."

On July 1, 2014, the "Keys to Independence Act", legislation aimed at helping youth within the child welfare system attain their driver's permit and license, took effect. The Guardian ad Litem Program, which advocates for abused and neglected children throughout the state, sponsored the bill.

"Driving is a teen's life. It is exciting and the focus of most conversations," Mark Griffard, guardian ad litem volunteer said. "Our kids can't participate in that conversation. They are isolated from that."

The idea of the bill actually stems from an earlier bill aimed at taking away the stigma of being a child within the child welfare system. "Let Kids be Kids" passed in 2012 and was focused on promoting normalcy by letting foster care children be like regular kids. The law gave caregivers more power to make normal decisions, such as allowing a sleepover.

"We want them to act like reasonable prudent parents," Abramowitz said.

When reviewing the effect of the bill through surveys of providers, children, caregivers and other partners in the child welfare system, it was discovered that a common obstacle to normalcy was the inability of foster youth to get their driver's permit or license. Almost 98 percent of youth age out of the child welfare system without a driver's license.

"Everyone wanted to figure this out," Abramowitz said. He worked with elected officials, insurance lobbyists and lawyers to create a viable solution.

The bill, which was sponsored by Senator Nancy Detert and Representative Ben Albritton, had unanimous support within the legislature. On June 19, Governor Rick Scott signed it into law.

"For years, we felt like this was one area that created a hindrance and stumbling block for our kids," Deborah Moore, Circuit Director for the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program, said. "It makes me really proud that we have legislative support to fix it."

The "Keys to Independence Act" will alleviate the obstacles youth in the child welfare system face, such as driver's education costs and attaining insurance.

"Sometimes the youths are moving around so much that they can't get into a class," Abramowitz said. "Money is a big obstacle when it comes to insurance."

The bill comes with $800,000 per year in funding to assist with the costs of insurance and driver's education classes. The bill will have provisions to help youth obtain insurance and reduce liability for caregivers. It is also aimed at educating caregivers about the opportunities to get youth driving.

"It is going to remove the obstacles and burdens. That is huge," Griffard said. "It will open the door for so many youth and give them something positive."

Thomas Fair, a former foster care youth and founder of Youth Shine, knows personally how it felt to be denied the opportunity to get a license. He was only able to get a license after he turned eighteen-years-old.

"It was a goal that I had that I couldn't achieve," Fair said.

Fair, who had tried to get his license while he was still in the system, says he couldn't because he could not register for driver's education and had no one to put him under their automobile insurance so that he could drive. He was able to get his license at eighteen without ever getting his permit or going through a driver's education class.

"I was a safe driver, but I really didn't know what I was doing. I had no training, no practice," Fair said. "It was scary, not to mention my insurance was sky high."

Abramowitz has already worked to get one youth driving. Caleb's fifteenth birthday, unlike most of his friends, did not involve a trip to the driver's license office to get his permit.

"There was just so many things, so many people we had to go through. It was a mess," Caleb said.

Abramowitz, along with the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program and its local non-profit Child Advocates II, Inc. (CAII), helped Caleb overcome the obstacles. CAII provided funding for the driver's education class and other fees. Three months ago, Caleb, who is now sixteen-years-old, was able to get behind a wheel. Abramowitz took his role as an advocate and mentor a step further and became his driving partner.

"I take him out whenever I can. He drives better than my kids do," Abramowitz said. "You can see the change in him."

By assisting youth with getting their permit, it will further their independence and their job opportunities.

"It is the first step to independence and employment," David Charroin, owner of Capital City Imports, said. "It shows employers responsibility, commitment, follow through and the ability to be there."

Charroin, who has worked with former foster youth to help them achieve car ownership, believes it is important to start with the responsibility of a license.

Abramowitz hopes that within the next year many youth will take advantage of the new opportunity. His goal is to have the number of youth in foster care who have their permit and license be proportionate to that of the community as a whole. Right now the state is accepting bids from non-profits to administer the program. Caleb will be on the committee who chooses the provider.

Caleb is happy that he was able to get his piece of plastic.

"You can't be independent if you are dependent on someone for a ride," Caleb said.

The Value of Guardian ad Litem Volunteers: Priceless

The Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program office recently published a new printable promotional flyer called The Value of Guardian ad Litem Volunteers.

The text of this new flyer is reproduced below. You can download it in JPEG and PDF formats, suitable for posting online and printing.

The Value of Guardian ad Litem Volunteers

  • For Children
  • Do better in school
  • 50% less likely to return to foster care
  • Have fewer placements
  • Receive more services
  • More likely to be adopted
  • Spend less time in foster care
  • For Florida
  • 32 months — average volunteer service period
  • $3,397 — cost to support a GAL volunteer
  • $7,474 — average cost of donated time and gas by GAL volunteer
  • $4,057 — return on investment per GAL volunteer

GAL volunteer contributions are PRICELESS!

I Am for the Child

Guardian ad Litem (GAL) volunteers are appointed by the court to advocate for children who have been removed from their homes due to allegations of abuse, abandonment or neglect. GALs develop a consistent relationship with the child, serve as educational advocates, help the child to experience and participate in normalcy activities and most importantly, they make recommendations to the court to ensure a safe, caring, stable and permanent environment for the child. Today, the GAL Program supports more than 9,200 volunteers serving more than 23,000 children.

GAL volunteers save the State of Florida $21,920,878 in salaries and benefits. It would take an additional 482 state employees to do this same work!

To Learn More: guardianadlitem.org or Call (866) 341-1GAL

The Value of Guardian ad Litem Volunteers