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.

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