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

New Events: May and June Training For New Volunteers

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.

You can also browse and access events on our calendar grid.

New Continuing Education Library Item and Two FAQ Updates

Continuing Education

One new library item has been added to our Continuing Education resource center.

  • Master Trust Introductory Training
    Slides and notes from a master trust training presentation, providing an overview and key things to watch for when advocating for the best interest of children with master trusts. Readers may receive one (1) hour of continuing education credit.
    filed under Foster Care and Slides

Page Updates

Two answers on our Frequently Asked Questions page have been refreshed with current information.

CAII Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids Raises Over $3,800 For Local Children

If you smelled something sweet in the air around Cascades Park last weekend, it was not your imagination playing tricks on you.

On Saturday, April 16, 2016, Child Advocates II, Inc. (CAII) hosted the third annual CAII Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids fundraiser at the Florida Department of Transportation auditorium.

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

CAII volunteers arrived early in the morning to set up and receive the twenty-four contestant entries. Official competition judges Keith Baxter of Kool Beanz Café and Joey Gans of Au Peche Mignon then went to work sampling each of the cupcakes and cookies.

view the CAII Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids 2016 photograph album

Guests were able to visit from 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM, walk around to see all of the entries and use tasting cards to purchase items. Free refreshments were available courtesy of CAII and Starbucks. Guests were also able learn about our program at an information table.

Among those stopping in to check out the event were Leon County Commissioner Brian Desloge, Tallahassee City Commissioner Gil Ziffer and Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office Executive Director Alan Abramowitz, the latter of whom also helped out by announcing the winners.

"We appreciate their stopping in to show their support for the Guardian ad Litem Program and Child Advocates II," says CAII Board Member Kristine Lamont, this event's organizer for three years in a row.

Circuit Director Deborah Moore and CAII Board President Omega Wynn each took a few minutes to address the crowd. After everyone had a chance to sample everything and mingle, it was time for the raffle drawing. The names of all contestants were placed into a jar and then randomly selected to receive one of several donated prizes.

After the powdered sugar had settled, Lamont announced that $3,830.19 in funds were raised. This is a fantastic success and is about $1,200 more than was raised during last year's event.

CAII Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids would not have been possible without the support of the community and the guests who came to sample the treats. Special thanks to all of our participants, winning contestants, sponsors, donors, judges, volunteers and guests.

Contestants
  • Jodi Abramowitz
  • Heather Adelstein
  • Ava Alarco
  • Charlene Austin
  • Anna Kathryn Blalock
  • Felicia Brundridge
  • C'Keisha Collins
  • Willie Foster
  • Erin Hannigan
  • Donecia Hills
  • Michellett Jackson
  • Madeline Kopka
  • Kristine Lamont
  • Rhonda MacLeod
  • John Marlow
  • Sarah Martinez
  • Samovidy Morris
  • Addison Nester
  • Jacob Nester
  • Dana Powell
  • Tiffany Santner
  • Kate Stratton
  • Alice Strom
  • Jennifer West-Kantor
Overall Winners: Cupcakes
  • Tiffany Santner
    Amateur

  • Samovidy Morris
    High School Youth

  • Madeline Kopka
    Middle School Youth

  • Alice Strom
    Elementary School Youth

Overall Winners: Cookies
  • John Marlow
    Amateur

  • Ava Alarco
    Elementary School Youth

Cupcake Winners by Level and Category
  • Amateur
  • Tiffany Santner
    Filled

  • Heather Adelstein
    Fruitilicious

  • Sarah Martinez
    Spice Things Up

  • Donecia Hills
    Twenty-One and Up

  • Michellett Jackson
    What The World Needs Now Is Chocolate

  • High School Youth
  • Samovidy Morris
    Nuts!

  • Middle School Youth
  • Madeline Kopka
    Nuts!

  • Elementary School Youth
  • Anna Kathryn Blalock
    Filled

  • Elementary School Youth
  • Alice Strom
    Fruitilicious

Cookie Winners by Level and Category
  • Amateur
  • Jodi Abramowitz
    Kitchen Sink

  • John Marlow
    Nuts!

  • Kristine Lamont
    Spice Things Up

  • Jennifer West-Kantor
    What The World Needs Now Is Chocolate

  • Elementary School Youth
  • Addison Nester and Jacob Nester
    Kitchen Sink

  • Elementary School Youth
  • Ava Alarco
    Spice Things Up

Gold Sponsors
Silver Sponsors
Bronze Sponsors
In Kind Donors
Prize Donors
Volunteer Support
CAII Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids

WBZE-FM Radio Program Features Guardian ad Litem Program and CAII Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids

STAR 98.9 — A Better Variety of Music from the 80s, 90s and Today

On Sunday, March 27, 2016, the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program and Child Advocates II, Inc. (CAII) were featured on an entire episode of Talk of Tallahassee, a local public affairs radio program broadcast weekly on STAR 98.9 (WBZE-FM).

Hosted by Tammy Webb of John and Tammy In The Morning on STAR 98.9, the Talk of Tallahassee episode highlights our program and mission while featuring commentary from Volunteer Recruiter Sara Blumenthal and CAII Board Member Kristine Lamont.

For nearly thirty minutes, Webb and company discussed the role of guardians ad litem in the court system, shared stories of how volunteers and community supporters make a difference in the lives of children and spoke about the then-upcoming CAII Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids fundraiser.

The entire episode is a great listen. You can download an MP3 of the audio or listen to the piece on YouTube, also embedded below.

Thank you to WBZE-FM and Tammy Webb for sharing our program with their listeners.

In Print: Two Articles In The Tallahassee Democrat

The Guardian ad Litem program's pinwheel garden shines in honor of Child Abuse Prevention month. Pinwheels represent a happy and safe childhood, things the Guardian ad Litem volunteers advocate for every day.
Photo: Sara Blumenthal

On Monday, April 18, 2016, two articles featuring our program appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat.

The articles provide information on how volunteer guardians ad litem support local children and the recent statewide success in recruiting 10,000 volunteers to the program.

Both of the articles are presented below in case you missed them. Thank you to the Tallahassee Democrat for sharing our program with their readers.

GAL volunteers stand up for children
by Sara Blumenthal

Monday, April 18, 2016
Tallahassee Democrat
TLH Section

Each day, parents go above and beyond for their children. Every day Guardian ad Litem volunteers go above and beyond for their children as well.

"I think the most powerful thing we can do is ensure every child has someone who will be there no matter what. Every child should know and feel that they matter," says Krista Killius, a local GAL volunteer child advocate.

Killius, who has been with the GAL program for five years, spends hours copying a book page by page so she can bring it to the GAL youth she is assigned to. The book is a collection of letters from reformed inmates. She gives it to her youth, who has made some poor choices, so he can have hope for a better future.

"He doesn't have family and didn't feel he had choices. I see him every week and send him a letter. It is powerful for him to see that someone sees him as a valuable part of society and values him as a person. It is meaningful for both of us," says Killius.

Killius is one of the more than 300 local and 10,000 statewide GAL volunteer child advocates. Every day she and her fellow volunteers advocate in the community and the courtroom for abused and neglected children.

"It's about being a voice for those who need it the most," says 2nd Judicial Circuit GAL program circuit director Deborah Moore. "Our volunteers ensure our children's interests are heard and their needs are met."

Like all volunteers, GAL volunteers are people who have the need to better their community. GAL volunteers focus on one of the community's most valuable and vulnerable resource, its children. According to national statistics, an alleged incident of child abuse is reported every 34.9 seconds. In Florida, over 30,000 children are currently in the child welfare system.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention month. All around town, pinwheel gardens are sparkling in the sun to represent what every child deserves — a safe and happy childhood. April is also National Volunteer Appreciation month, which Moore says is a fitting concurrence for the GAL program, which recently surpassed its goal of 10,000 volunteers statewide.

"Our volunteers make a difference by joining with us every day advocating for children who suffered abuse and neglect," says Moore. "We are committed to making their lives better."

GAL volunteers speak up in the courtroom, working to ensure the child has a permanent safe home. They work to make sure the child's educational needs are met and the child has the opportunities to participate in normal activities.

Though GAL volunteers realize the difference they make (a child with a GAL volunteer is half as likely to cycle back into the system and twice as likely to find a forever home), they do not see themselves as extraordinary.

"I don't do anything special. I am just there for my child," says Kathleen Cole, a GAL volunteer who travels regularly to visit her youth who resides in St. Augustine.

Providing that consistent person for the child is a vital part of the GAL program's mission. Having someone they can depend on is something some of the children in care have never had.

"Our kids have someone who cares about them, someone they can trust and depend on, someone they know will fight for them," says Moore. "That makes all the difference."

Betsy Purdum, another GAL volunteer, was there for her youth from the beginning to the end. She made sure that through the process within the child welfare system, the child always had someone in his corner fighting for a permanent safe home, no matter what road blocks occurred.

"We prevailed. He found a family," says Purdum. "He is nurtured and loved, which is what every child deserves."

The results of having someone there are seen every day by the program. It is the child who never thought they would have a real family now calling someone mom. It the child who never had a person encouraging and pushing them now graduating from college. It is the child who never expected much of themselves now having hope and a goal. It is the child who didn't have a parent present now having one after their parent dealt with their addiction.

"Sometimes it's about not giving up. You wouldn't give up on your own child and we shouldn't give up on these children," said GAL volunteer Pat Dallet. The youth who he and his wife Jane are assigned to became homeless after aging out of the child welfare system. They helped him get his life back on track, even helping him get into cosmetology school and buying him his first barber set.

Moore says there are many more children to help. She hopes when people think about volunteering they will think about becoming a child advocate.

"To me, there isn't anything more rewarding then to have the privilege of being that one person to change a child's life," says Moore.

To learn more about the GAL Program or how you can help, please visit www.gal2.org or call 606-1213.

Florida leads nation with GAL volunteers
Special to the Democrat

Monday, April 18, 2016
Tallahassee Democrat
TLH Section

This month, more than 30 community volunteers will participate in the region's 2nd Circuit's Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program training to serve as an abused or neglected child's voice and advocate. These new volunteers will then take an oath before a judge to stand up for a child's best interest and join over 300 Guardian ad Litem advocates serving the Big Bend.

Alan Abramowitz, Florida Guardian ad Litem Executive Director, reports the state's GAL Program has exceeded its goal of 10,000 volunteers who advocate for abused, neglected and abandoned children in Florida's dependency courts. Abramowitz made the announcement in recapping the agency's success during the recently adjourned Florida Legislative Session. Although most states have a GAL Program of some kind, Florida's success in recruiting volunteers sets the record for the nation.

Chester W. Spellman, Volunteer Florida CEO stated that "Volunteer Florida applauds Guardian ad Litem's achievement of engaging 10,000 volunteers! Guardian ad Litem continues to successfully leverage the human capital of volunteers to serve Florida's most vulnerable children. We are proud to support their efforts and value our statewide partnership."

Alan Abramowitz reported that a count of total volunteers at the end of February 2016, reveals that 10,056 Florida GAL citizen volunteers are trained and certified to work with children who are removed from their parents due to safety concerns. Most volunteers represent two or more abused children, visiting them at least once a month, and advising child welfare judges on options for assuring the child's best interests.

Our dedicated volunteers are the heart and soul of the GAL Program," Abramowitz explained. "They speak for vulnerable, innocent children and hold government and private sector agencies accountable for their safety, security and best interests. Our volunteers receive nothing in return but the knowledge that they are making a difference in the lives of children."

Abramowitz explained that anyone age 18 or older can become a volunteer, simply by participating in a local training course and meeting other qualifications.

The local program is able to be the voice for over 96 percent of local youth currently in the child welfare system. Deborah Moore, 2nd Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program Director attributes that level of representation to the continued support of the community and its lawmakers.

"We are thankful for our partners in the Legislature including Florida House Representatives Alan Williams, Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, Halsey Beshears and State Senator Bill Montford. They are effective advocates for our program and the children we serve. We are grateful for their support," said Moore.

Even with GAL's successes to date, there are thousands of children who still need a voice.

To learn more about the Guardian ad Litem Program in our region or to become a volunteer visit www.gal2.org or call 850-606-1213.

Sara Blumenthal Named Finalist For The Tallahassee Network of Young Professionals 2016 Golden A.C.E. Award

Golden A.C.E. Awards Tallahassee

One of our wonderful employees has been nominated for an award.

Sara Blumenthal, Volunteer Recruiter for the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program, is a finalist in the running for a 2016 Golden A.C.E. Award.

Presented annually by one of our community supporters, the Tallahassee Network of Young Professionals, the Golden A.C.E. Award highlights members of the community "who believe in authentic community engagement" (A.C.E.) and who are "an emerging young leader in their respective industry."

The fifth annual Golden A.C.E. Awards and Gala on Saturday, May 7, 2016 in Tallahassee will feature a recognition of "the Capital City's top '20 under 40' young professionals" and then present the main award and "Top A.C.E." title to one of the twenty finalists.

In announcing this news to her staff, Circuit Director Deborah Moore exclaimed that Blumenthal is "already the winner to us" and "we are so proud of you, Sara!"

Tickets to attend the gala event are still available online and cost $45 for Network of Young Professionals members and $55 for non-members.

Please join us in congratulating Sara Blumenthal on this terrific honor.

Clothes for a Cause, Event Update and a Letter to Volunteers

Clothes for a Cause

Local screen printing and embroidering business Clothesline is running a contest and our nonprofit partner Child Advocates II, Inc. (CAII) needs your help to win.

Clothes for a Cause is Clothesline's annual give back event benefiting a not-for-profit organization in the Big Bend area. Following a nomination process, Clothesline is now accepting votes from the public to select an organization to receive $500 worth of customized apparel.

Please consider voting for CAII by selecting "Child Advocates 2 for Guardian Ad Litem" on the voting page. You can vote once a day until Friday, April 15, 2016.

Clothes for a Cause Poster

Event Update

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

Clothesline 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.

Thank you to Clothesline for their support!

Letter to Volunteers

On Friday, April 8, 2016, Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program Executive Director Alan Abramowitz reported that Governor Rick Scott, upon learning that the program had surpassed its goal of recruiting 10,000 volunteers, expressed a desire to "reach out … with words of appreciation."

His letter of appreciation to volunteers is pictured and reproduced below.

Governor Rick Scott's Letter to Guardian ad Litem Volunteers

April 7, 2016

Dear Guardian ad Litem:

To the more than 10,000 dedicated volunteers of the Guardian ad Litem Program, thank you for giving a voice to Florida's most vulnerable children.

All children deserve to have someone they can trust, who will listen to them, mentor them, and most importantly, be a constant adult figure in their lives. As a Guardian ad Litem, you are a consistent adult presence in a child's life.

Our Florida First budget builds on my commitment to protecting Florida's most vulnerable children by investing $46 million, an increase of $2.8 million over last year, in the statewide Guardian ad Litem program. This increase in funding will provide legal representation to thousands of children in court cases throughout Florida.

As a father and a grandfather, I know how important it is for every child to live in a healthy and safe home. Thank you for all you are doing to provide support to children who need it most.

Sincerely,

Rick Scott
Governor

In Print: Dinner Divas Support Guardian ad Litem

On Thursday, March 31, 2016, the Apalachicola Times published an article about a recent event held in support of our program, The Dinner Divas Present: A Coastal Cocktail Buffet Fundraiser.

As we reported on Saturday, March 26, 2016, the Dinner Divas raised about $3,200 for local children during the event.

The article is presented below in case you missed it. Thank you to the Times for sharing our program with their readers.

Dinner Divas Support GAL
by Lois Swoboda

Thursday, March 31, 2016
Apalachicola Times
Society Section

On Saturday, March 12, the Dinner Divas staged a gala event to raise money for Franklin County's Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program.

A guardian ad litem is appointed by a court to protect the interests of a child, or incompetency. Typically, the court may appoint either a lawyer, or a special advocate volunteer to serve as guardian ad litem in juvenile, family court, probate and domestic relations matters.

The guardian ad litem is not expected to make diagnostic or therapeutic recommendations but to provide an information base from which to draw resources. As authorized by law the guardian ad litem may advocate for a child at risk.

About 80 people attended the Saturday evening affair held at the lovely home of Henry and Elaine Kozlowsky on Magnolia Bluff.

The Dinner Divas, who specialize in one-off fundraisers for worthy causes, prepared dishes featuring, salmon, local seafood and a stunning array of sweets.

After the party had taken time to raid the buffet and enjoy a glass of their favorite beverage, Sarah Blumenthal, recruiter for the local GAL program, appealed to the crowd to consider volunteering to advocate for a child. Pat O'Connell of St. George Island, a member of the Dinner Divas group, said she and her husband Michael have been GAL volunteers for 14 years.

"It is definitely the most rewarding and interesting charity we have been involved with," O'Connell said.

Blumenthal said GAL volunteers give children "the opportunity to have a more normal life in a very abnormal situation."

"Our children are half as likely to cycle back into the system and twice as likely to be adopted" as other children at risk, Blumenthal told the gathering. "There's a ripple effect. Change the life of one child and you change the world."

Blumenthal described two of the GAL programs that the money raised will help fund.

"Beyond the Basics" seeks to provide children who are neglected or otherwise at risk with experiences most youngsters take for granted. It could be a dress for the prom, sports equipment or the money to go on a field trip.

"First Beginnings" is for kids who are aging out of the system to help them get a first apartment. Blumenthal said GAL maintains a warehouse with furniture and other household goods.

"Every one of our kids has a bed to sleep on. That may not seem like a lot to you but it's a big deal," she said.

Blumenthal said a training program for GAL volunteers will be held in Sopchoppy May 5 through 7. To learn more about GAL, call (850) 606-1213 or visit www.GAL2.org.

Image of Tallahassee Magazine, Page 59

Apalachicola Times

Tallahassee Fire Department Video Introduces Guardian ad Litem Program and Mission To Local First Responders

On Tuesday, March 29, 2016, Captain Mike Bellamy with the Tallahassee Fire Department published the March 2016 episode of TFD INsider, a video series produced for the three-hundred members of their department.

In this special episode, Volunteer Recruiter Sara Blumenthal and Child Advocates II, Inc. (CAII) Board President Omega Wynn join Bellamy to provide an overview of our program, its mission and the ways that people can help. Wynn also promotes CAII Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids, our tasty fundraiser taking place on Saturday, April 16, 2016.

You can watch the video on YouTube, which is also embedded below.

Thank you to Captain Bellamy and the Tallahassee Fire Department for sharing our program with their members!

Eight New Events Plus Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids Update

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.

You can also browse and access events on our calendar grid.

Event Update

A business and a local family have joined as event sponsors for this year's CAII Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids.

Starbucks is participating as a silver sponsor and The MacLeod Family is participating as a bronze sponsor. Both of these sponsors are joining us for the second time.

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.

Although contestant and sponsor registration is now closed, you can still visit gal2.org/cupcake to purchase tasting cards. Those who buy tasting cards online are entitled to enter the event and start sampling thirty minutes early. Online tasting card sales will end on Sunday, April 10, 2016.

Thank you to Starbucks and The MacLeod Family for their support!