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 August 2014 archive sorted chronologically with the newest at the top.

Exceptional Student Education Institute Training Series

Logo: Parents of the Panhandle Information Network

Parents of the Panhandle Information Network (POPIN) and the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program are hosting a training series of interest to volunteer guardians ad litem and staff.

The Exceptional Student Education Institute is a six-part educational program detailing exceptional student education (ESE) programs, methodologies and best practices.

The training is free. You can learn about each class and register to attend on the event pages below.

Update
2014-09-25: updated to reflect cancellation of SB 1108 and SB 850

Family In Need: Toddler Beds with Mattresses [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
    Two (2) toddler beds with mattresses

  • Narrative
    Beds are needed for two separate families. One will be used by a girl and the other a boy.

  • Contact
    Emily Pritchard
    emily.pritchard@gal.fl.gov
    (850) 606-1225
    (850) 445-0658
Update
2014-09-03: update status to "fulfilled"

New Events: Educational Advocacy and Surrogate 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.

Take 5: to Practice and Share the C-SAFE Philosophy

Take 5: to practice our new C-SAFE philosophy or better yet, teach one person — a volunteer or a new staff member — how to implement this new advocacy practice.

C-SAFE is the "new" GAL philosophy on how to engage even more directly than we already do in the action necessary to advance the best interests of kids. I say "new" because it's really not all that new. These are things we've been talking about and doing for years. But it some respects it is a new philosophy as it is designed to begin every conversation, on every case, with three simple questions leading us to decisive action in three critical areas.

Many of you have received formal training on our C-SAFE philosophy. Some of you may not have. But I hope all of you have at least heard of this unifying approach.

So in short, what is C-SAFE?

C-SAFE is a unifying philosophy that insists that every single one of us ask three questions every time we look at or discuss a case. These three questions should be a part of your normal, standard operating procedure. We don't need you to fill out a form or hold a formal meeting or make a production out of the asking of these questions, but we do need you to ask and answer the questions… every single time. Volunteers, CACs, attorneys and management should all ask these questions every time any one or more of you begin a review or assessment of a case.

I should remind everyone that all decisions like this should be documented in a prominent location, somewhere in your file. Anyone who picks up the file should be able to start with prior answers on these three questions.

OK, enough of the preliminaries… "What are the three questions?" Hey, I'm glad you asked. They are:

  • Is this child safe in their current placement?
    If so, great! If not, what do we need to do NOW to make sure this child is safe? You can also ask this same question about a future, planned placement.

  • Have we actually achieved ALL that we've advocated for in this case?
    If so, great! If not, what do we need to do NOW to make sure that what this child needs is actually delivered?

  • Is this case on track to expedite the right permanency plan for this child?
    If so, great! If not, what do we need to do NOW to get this case resolved with the appropriate permanency outcome?

That's it? Does that cover every conceivable advocacy issue? Probably not. But it certainly focuses us on the three very important issues of safety, assuring that the child's needs are being met and getting permanency for the child as soon as possible.

The whole point, really, isn't the answer to the question, although the question is certainly the springboard particularly when the answer to the question is "no." The point is the action necessary to change the answer to "yes" when the answer needs changing. Action orientation is the absolute, final assessment on the effectiveness of our C-SAFE philosophy.

So, here's my challenge to you. Take five minutes today to practice this new philosophy on at least one file. Ask and answer the three questions in concert with your advocacy team as a conscious exercise. Decide what needs to be done to get the answers you are seeking and get it done. If the answers to all three questions are already yes, then celebrate where this case is heading and move to the next case. And to cement this new philosophy in your mind, teach someone else how to incorporate the C-SAFE model into your day-to-day work.

The immediate goal is to infuse C-SAFE into every level of the organization, and the only way to do that is to make the C-SAFE philosophy and the C-SAFE questions a part of your personal philosophy. I've challenged your management team to ask these questions themselves. If they aren't doing that for you, ask them to help you integrate C-SAFE more effectively by modeling those questions in their own review of files.

The longer-term goal is to change significantly the answers to all three of these questions, where we can, to a resounding "yes" every time. That will require action… and lots of it. But the lives of the kids we serve will be better off for it. But it's the action that will matter in the long run.

"What can we do to change this today?"

C-SAFE applies to everyone who works with a child at GAL. It is the guiding principle for the entire GAL organization, regardless of your position. And most importantly, our success (as individuals, teams, units, circuits, regions and statewide) should largely be determined on how well we can change a "no" to a "yes." If we only advocate without achievement then our advocacy isn't really very effective. So the measure is action and results, not advocacy in and of itself.

I'd love to hear of any stories that result from a C-SAFE discussion or analysis. Tell me a story about where you were able to change a "no" to a "yes" with action that arose from your C-SAFE questioning and collaboration. I'll be happy to share some of those results with everyone. Good luck! Have fun with this and make it happen!

Save the Date: October CAII Happy Hour at Madison Social

Following a successful first event in June 2014, Child Advocates II, Inc. (CAII) is pleased to announce a second CAII Happy Hour at Madison Social on Wednesday, October 22, 2014 from 5:00 to 7:00 PM.

The happy hour is an informal way to socialize, network and have fun while supporting our cause.

During this simple fundraiser, special CAII guest bartenders take over a bar at Madison Social in Tallahassee and mix your favorite beverages to order. One-hundred percent of your tips to them will then be donated to CAII in support of our program.

You can check out the event flyer and then mark your calendar to save the date!

Mosaic of photographs from the CAII Happy Hour at Madison Social on June 18, 2014

Above: CAII Board President Brian Sealey's photographs from the first CAII Happy Hour at Madison Social held on Wednesday, June 18, 2014.

Pre-Service Volunteer Training Schedule Has New Times

The times for the September, October, November and December classroom pre-service training for new volunteers have been updated.

Each month's classroom training is conducted over six days. While these dates remain unchanged, the first three classes of each month will now be from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM and the last three from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM.

You can see the full schedule for each month and learn more about becoming a volunteer by visiting the event flyers.

In Print: Tallahassee Board of Realtors Blog

On Friday, August 1, 2014, an article written by Brian Sealey, Child Advocates II, Inc. (CAII) Board President, was published on the Tallahassee Board of Realtors blog. Sealey's piece describes the role and mission of our program, how CAII provides support and what people can do to help.

The article is part of a month-long effort by the Tallahassee Board of Realtors to highlight the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program with their members. As Sealey is a local realtor, he was the perfect person to introduce the world of guardians ad litem to the real estate community.

Thank you to Brian Sealey and the Tallahassee Board of Realtors for providing this public outreach.

Sealey's article is presented below in case you missed it.

Volunteer Spotlight: Guardian ad Litem
by Brian Sealey

Friday, August 1, 2014
Tallahassee Board of Realtors Blog

"Children are the greatest gift God will give… their souls are the heaviest responsibility He will place in your hands."

— Lisa Wingate

Children in the foster care system are a demographic largely overlooked and forgotten. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 400,000 children are in the foster care system during a fiscal year. When it is reported that a child's home is no longer safe, a judge may appoint a committed volunteer to help them. That volunteer is called a court appointed special advocate, or guardian ad litem (GAL).

The guardian ad litem volunteers are screened, highly trained and sworn into service by a judge. These volunteers advocate for a child's best interests in the child protection system. Working with the Florida Department of Children and Families and the court, GAL volunteers save not only taxpayer's money (fourth year in a row recipient of the Florida Tax Watch Prudential Davis Productivity Award), but also children's futures by helping children find safe, permanent homes as soon as possible.

As an advocate for abused families and chair of its 501(c)(3) Child Advocates II (CAII), I am firmly and humbly dedicated to the powerful mission of this organization — the mission to support and promote court-appointed volunteer advocacy so that every abused and neglected child can be safe from harm, establish permanency and have the opportunity to thrive. Led by Circuit Director Deborah Moore, the local Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program has been taking a stand for abused and neglected children involved in the juvenile and domestic relations courts.

Our vision is that we live in communities where every abused and neglected child removed from their home has a trained GAL volunteer until they secure a safe and permanent one. We seek to ensure children don't get lost in an overburdened legal, social and community service system, or become forgotten in a foster home. Most of these children come through our doorways hurt, scared and abandoned. A few even find their way to us due to the plight of poverty and homelessness. For many abused and neglected children, their GAL volunteer will be the one and only constant adult presence in their life.

The opportunity for these children to not just survive but thrive has always been my ambition. In 2014, CAII in collaboration with the Guardian ad Litem Program launched two initiatives: First Beginnings and Beyond the Basics. Many youth move into their first home with no furniture and only an air mattress upon which to sleep. Often there is no family nor existing resources to provide household essentials like furniture, linens and kitchenware; First Beginnings provides youth that are aging out of foster care with everything they need for their first home. Beyond the Basics is built on the belief that a school experience is beyond just paper, pens and book bags. It was created to provide guardian ad litem children the ability to experience a normal and balanced education experience through financial and in-kind donations from individuals and companies throughout the community. With Beyond the Basics, children can participate in educational camps, sports and academic trips for which many of our kids qualify but couldn't attend due to financial limitations.

How can you help?

First and most importantly, maintain an awareness of child abuse and neglect as a growing problem in our communities. Speak with your neighbors, colleagues and community organizations about the Guardian ad Litem Program, its mission and work.

Consider becoming a volunteer advocate for neglected and abused children. You will receive adequate training. Once certified, you will spend a few hours each month and you'll have a professional supervisor to guide you along the way.

Get involved with our local Child Advocates II non-profit. Child Advocates II, Inc. (CAII) is a charitable, 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, all-volunteer organization founded to support the GAL program. Through fundraising, CAII supports the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program in providing for the needs of abused and neglected children in Leon, Gadsden, Wakulla, Jefferson and Liberty counties. Established in 1988, CAII conducts fundraising and marketing activities to provide the needs of children by securing basic necessities such as beds, baby supplies and clothing, which would not have been available with state agency support alone.

We have hundreds of dedicated GALs — men and women encompassing all age groups and backgrounds. They work full-time, part-time, are retired, are students. Some GAL volunteers have only one case child; others opt to advocate for more than one or a group of siblings. Because of the unique nature of this advocacy work and the personal connection to a child, many GAL volunteers find that their service is the experience of a lifetime.

I am a Voice for the Child… will you join me?

Brian Sealey
Keller Williams Town and Country Realty

Copyright © 2014, Tallahassee Board of REALTORS®. All rights reserved.

New Events: Life Skills Training and Special Community Event

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.

Family In Need: Baby Furniture [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
    Baby furniture

  • Narrative
    Furniture is needed for a family with a thirteen-month-old child.

  • Contact
    Janay Davis
    janay.davis@gal.fl.gov
    (850) 606-1230
    (850) 661-8086
Update
2015-02-05: update status to fulfilled