An article written by one of our guardian ad litem volunteers was recently published in the Tallahassee Democrat. The article is presented below in case you missed it.
How Guardian ad Litem changed my life
by Sarah Young
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Tallahassee Democrat, My View
I grew up living inside of the Ronald McDonald Houses of Tampa Bay at All Children's Hospital, where my parents served as the on-site managers.
My mom set the example for who I wanted to become as an adult — someone who fights and advocates for children in times of need. That passion to advocate for children brought me to Guardian ad Litem, where I serve as one of 10,000+ volunteer voices for Florida's abused, abandoned and neglected children.
Guardian ad Litem began in Florida in 1980 as a means to advocate on behalf of Florida's most vulnerable children. As a GAL volunteer, I enter a child's life at what is most likely the worst time in that child's few short years. The child has been so abandoned, neglected or abused by the people who are supposed to love and protect them that the government has to step in.
The child may be removed from their caretakers or supports may be placed around the child and family so the family can eventually be reunified. Sometimes reunification is successful and sometimes it is not. But as a GAL volunteer, I am by that child's side, through the entire process. I am the only person involved in the case whose sole mission is to ensure the child's best interests are communicated to the court and to advocate just for that child.
A child with a GAL volunteer is more likely to find a safe, permanent home; is half as likely to re-enter foster care; will receive more services; spend less time in foster care; is less likely to be bounced from home to home; and will do better in school than those children without a GAL volunteer.
As a GAL, I get to see the inner workings of the Department of Children and Families and the judicial court system, unveiling the cloud of secrecy that so often surrounds child welfare issues. I'm given the opportunity to have a direct and lasting impact on children. In addition, I get to hold government accountable for our society's seemingly forgotten children.
But, for as much impact as I've had as a volunteer, the Guardian ad Litem program has impacted me far more. As a newly-minted faculty member at the Askew School of Public Administration and Policy at Florida State University, my professional life is forever altered.
I've become increasingly focused on how to use my new role to better the world for vulnerable children, working to create a nonprofit curriculum that will mold the next generation of government and community leaders.
The biggest impact is in my personal life. My husband and I saw that there are so many children in the dependency system who need good parents that we are now licensed adoptive parents, matched to a seven-year-old little boy.
Guardian ad Litem gave me a purpose, a professional focus, my future children, and most important, a way to utilize my passion to fight for children.
For information about Florida Guardian ad Litem, visit www.guardianadlitem.org.
Sarah Young teaches nonprofit management at Florida State University and conducts research on Florida's child welfare system.