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 February 2016 archive sorted chronologically with the newest at the top.

New and Updated Events Plus First Beginnings and FAQ Updates

New 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 event was added to our calendar.

Event Update

Two businesses have joined as event sponsors for this year's CAII Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids.

Law, Redd, Crona and Munroe, P.A. is participating as a silver sponsor and Akerman LLP is participating as a bronze sponsor. Law, Redd, Crona and Munroe, P.A. has supported this fun and tasty event for three years in a row, while Akerman LLP is joining us for the second year in a row.

With proceeds benefiting the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program, CAII Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids is a friendly annual competition for amateur and professional bakers and an opportunity for the public to raise money for our program by sampling the delicious results.

This year's competition is on Saturday, April 16, 2016 at the Florida Department of Transportation W. Haydon Burns Building Auditorium across from Cascades Park in Downtown Tallahassee.

Visit gal2.org/cupcake for complete details and to purchase tasting cards, enter the competition or register as a sponsor.

Thank you to Law, Redd, Crona and Munroe, P.A. and Akerman LLP for their support!

First Beginnings

The First Beginnings project page received some minor updates. First Beginnings provides assistance to youth in our community who are venturing out on their own for the first time.

Several items were added or removed from the Household Items List section. This list specifies the items the project needs donated. We also added icons to indicate which of the items are most in demand. If you can donate any of the items listed, please get in touch with the project contact.

Visit gal2.org/first for complete details and to learn how to help. You can also read an article recently published in the Tallahassee Democrat about the project's success.

Frequently Asked Questions

We refreshed the answers to three of our Frequently Asked Questions. Answers to the following questions were updated to reflect current information.

In Print: First Beginnings Project

Briahnna Banks taking a lamp from Guardian ad Litem Volunteer Stuart Zirin
Photo: Sara Blumenthal/gal2.org

An article about our First Beginnings project was recently published in the Tallahassee Democrat. The article is presented below in case you missed it.

1st Beginnings program helps foster care youth
by Ellen Piekalkiewicz

Monday, February 22, 2016
Tallahassee Democrat

Deborah Moore, circuit director for the local Guardian ad Litem programs, fields hundreds of calls daily as part of her and her program's mission to advocate and help local abused and neglected children. Some of her favorite calls are when she and the program are able to help a youth going out on their own through the program's 1st Beginning project.

"It is so rewarding being able to be that resource for the youth, being able to make sure they have what they need," said Moore.

1st Beginnings is a project the GAL Program and its nonprofit Child Advocates II established over a year ago to ensure youth in the child welfare system have what they need to make their first place their first home, a mission the community and community leaders have embraced.

"The 1st Beginnings project is an important step in helping foster youth as they transition to adulthood," said Representative Alan Williams. "The needs of foster care youth do not end after the leave the foster care system and projects and programs like this show our commitment as a community to assist the youth in becoming productive, successful and independent adults."

Ensuring the needs of the youth are met is essential to GAL volunteers and staff.

"These kids have been through so much in their short lives. They shouldn't have to struggle to have a bed to sleep on," said Stuart Zirin, a GAL volunteer advocate and member of the program's Independent Living Committee.

For the Guardian ad Litem program, the 1st Beginnings project is just an extension of its core mission — to help, support and advocate for youth who have been abused and neglected. Every day volunteer advocates stand up for children who have gone through so much and may not have a voice of their own. Guardian ad Litem volunteers are speaking for these children in the court to make sure they have a permanent safe home. They speak up in the education system to make sure these children have the tools for success. They speak up in the community to make sure these children have the same opportunities as their peers.

"Every day we make a difference in the life of a child," said Moore. Children who have a GAL volunteer are half as likely to cycle back into the child welfare system and twice as likely to find a forever family.

Recently when Moore got a call about a youth struggling to set up her own apartment, she and the 1st Beginnings team went to went to work to make sure that youth was taken care of.

Briahnna Banks, 20, has been in and out of the child welfare system. She is currently in Postsecondary Education Services and Support program (PESS), which pays for the youth's education and provides a stipend. She was moving into a new apartment for a fresh start and new beginning as she embarked on her studies at Lively College. The only problem is that she had nothing to put in it.

"It is serious when you are on your own. Before, I had nothing to come home to. I was sleeping on the floor. I had nothing to eat out of. I had one fork," said Banks. "I have been going months and months without. It was hard to sleep at night just worrying about how I was going to make it."

Moore immediately reached out to a 1st Beginnings community supporter, the iServe program at Killearn United Methodist Church. The iServe program runs the Sweet Dreams project, which provides bed for youths in the child welfare system.

"Everyone, especially a child, deserves to sleep in their own bed at night," said John Cousins, a member of the iServe program at Killearn United Methodist Church.

For Banks, having her own bed brought her to tears.

"It gave me hope. I am taking these big steps to maturity. This is boosting me up. The things I needed, I now have. I don't have to worry and stress. I can focus on what I need to- school," said Banks.

Moore also set up Banks to come to the 1st Beginnings storage unit where the program has set up a sort of store. The program accepts donated items of new household items and furniture and then youth come and shop for free for what they want.

"I am not from here. Now I can design my place the way I want it to be and make it my home," said Banks who got dishes, chairs, lamps, pictures and other items from the storage area.

Zirin, who spends many a day at the storage unit helping youth shop for their first place, says every time he helps a youth he realizes the importance of the project.

"They are just so grateful. They smile and you know the difference you have made," said Zirin. "They need someone to help them. Even though they are technically adults, they still need to be taken care of."

Moore knows that the 1st Beginnings project will continue to grow and help the young adults as they venture out on their own. The program continues to garner community support and partners. For her and the other GAL volunteers, it is about helping one youth at a time have a better future, like Banks.

"I can't say what this means except to say, thank you. Thank you for coming through for me and other kids like me. It makes a difference like you would not believe," said Banks. "I am blessed."

For more information on the 1st Beginnings project, please call Deborah Moore at 850-606-1213. For more information about the Guardian ad Litem program or how to become an advocate, please visit www.gal2.org or call 850-606-1213.

Ellen Piekalkiewicz is the executive director of United Partners for Human Services. She has more than 25 years of experience working for statewide organizations, local nonprofits and federal agencies.

New Volunteer Application eForm Launched

Prospective volunteers now have a new method to start the guardian ad litem application process.

We are pleased to announce the launch of our Volunteer Application eForm. As mentioned during the pre-launch announcement, our goal is to make it quicker and easier for prospective volunteers to begin the application process using a digitized version the form.

eForm is our web-based application providing a streamlined way to submit forms and reports to staff. More than 650 total submissions have been sent using eForm from the time of its premiere in July 2015. The volunteer application is the sixth eForm to be created since then.

In concert with the new Volunteer Application eForm, we also published significant revisions to the Apply to Volunteer section on the Prospective Volunteers page. The section now contains numbered steps summarizing the entire application process; information about the two application methods available; and new supplemental downloads for those using the eForm, since not all of the application process may be completed online.

Other related updates include the addition of the new eForm to the Form and Document Library section on the Current Volunteers page and to the Website Shortlinks section on the Links page.

Please let us know if you have any comments or questions. Thank you for your support!

Four New Continuing Education Events

New Events

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 added to our calendar.

New Events, Event Update, Families In Need, Statewide Annual Report and First Beginnings

New Events

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 added to our calendar.

Event Update

Another business has joined as an event sponsor for this year's CAII Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids.

Capital City Bank is participating as a bronze sponsor. They have supported this fun and tasty event for two years in a row.

With proceeds benefiting the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program, CAII Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids is a friendly annual competition for amateur and professional bakers and an opportunity for the public to raise money for our program by sampling the delicious results.

This year's competition is on Saturday, April 16, 2016 at the Florida Department of Transportation W. Haydon Burns Building Auditorium across from Cascades Park in Downtown Tallahassee.

Visit gal2.org/cupcake for complete details and to purchase tasting cards, enter the competition or register as a sponsor.

Thank you to Capital City Bank for their support!

Families In Need

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.

Thanks to the generous contributions of businesses and individuals in the community, all outstanding requests have been updated to "fulfilled" status. Focusing on our program's current needs, two new general requests were posted in their place.

A small Families in Need section was also added to the Donate page to bring greater visibility of these requests to potential donors.

If you or your business can help, get in touch with the request contact listed in the relevant post. Thank you in advance for your assistance!

Statewide Annual Report

The Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office's annual report for this year was recently published. The report — A Voice Heard: Visualizing a Hopeful Future — is now available for download.

"I have been handing out this report to legislators, judges, child welfare colleagues and key stakeholders during my meetings and travels," said Executive Director Alan Abramowitz. "This report really highlights the importance of what our volunteers do on a daily basis for Florida's most vulnerable children."

You can contact Kelly Razzano at kelly.razzano@gal.fl.gov or (850) 922-7213 to request a quote for print copies of the report.

First Beginnings

Several updates were made to the First Beginnings project page. First Beginnings provides assistance to youth in our community who are venturing out on their own for the first time.

A new Household Items List section was added. This list specifies the items the project needs donated. In addition, the page received some minor text updates and a refreshed print flyer.

Family In Need: Furniture and Household Items

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.

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
    Open

  • Request
    New household items (sheets, towels, dishes, pots, pans, silverware) and new/gently used furniture (small dressers with three or four drawers, dining tables, chairs, sofas)

  • Narrative
    This is a general request. Household items are frequently needed by families of the children that our program represents.

  • Contact
    Deborah Moore
    deborah.moore@gal.fl.gov
    (850) 606-1218
    (850) 294-7545

Family In Need: Used Laptop Computers

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.

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
    Open

  • Request
    Used laptop/notebook computers, preferably no older than three years of age

  • Narrative
    This is a general request. The computers will be donated to youth attending school.

  • Contact
    Deborah Moore
    deborah.moore@gal.fl.gov
    (850) 606-1218
    (850) 294-7545

CAII Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids Event Update, Staff Directory and eForm Update

Event Update

Two competition judges have been secured for this year's CAII Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids.

Keith Baxter of Kool Beanz Café and Joey Gans of Au Peche Mignon have generously agreed to provide their services selecting winning entries by level and category. Gans and Baxter have supported this fun and tasty event for three years in a row.

In addition, the Tallahassee branch of Alsco, Inc. has also joined as an in kind donor by providing linens for the event. Like Baxter and Gans, Alsco has supported this event for three years.

With proceeds benefiting the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program, CAII Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids is a friendly annual competition for amateur and professional bakers and an opportunity for the public to raise money for our program by sampling the delicious results.

This year's competition is on Saturday, April 16, 2016. Visit gal2.org/cupcake for complete details and to purchase tasting cards, enter the competition or register as a sponsor.

Thank you to Keith Baxter, Joey Gans and Alsco for their continued support!

Staff Directory and eForm Update

Our staff directory on the Contact page plus our Child Visitation Report and Report to the Court eForms have been updated to reflect recent personnel changes.

Child Advocate Manager Tammy Harris and Child's Best Interest Attorney Richard Gillis joined the office, while Child Advocate Manager Carol Blank departed.

We welcome Tammy and Richard to the team. We also thank Carol for her service and wish her the best with her future endeavors.