Volunteer of the Month: December 2019

Betsy Purdum is being honored as the December Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Volunteer of the Month. Betsy has been serving children in our community for over fifteen years.

Schyler Brumm is our child advocate manager who works with the early childhood courts in Leon and Gadsden County. Schyler nominated Betsy Purdum as our Volunteer of the Month. Betsy is a familiar face in the program not only due to her many years of service but also for her participation with the Volunteer Advisory Committee (VAC).

The first time Betsy retired she was an adjunct professor of anthropology at Florida State University. During her years as a volunteer she was inspired to gain a further understanding of the field and pursued her master's degree in social work. Betsy then worked as the director of a grant program for families experiencing homelessness. Currently in her second retirement, Betsy enjoys taking care of her horses and volunteering with Guardian ad Litem.

What makes Betsy a standout for Schyler is her strong advocacy in every facet of the children's lives. "You can see the children have a connection to her in the courtroom and she is always there to guide them," said Schyler. She also mentioned that she felt that Betsy empowers children to advocate for themselves through her modeling and consistent presence in their lives. "Betsy impacts their lives and they impact her."

Betsy originally trained to be a volunteer child advocate in 2000 after her son had graduated from high school. She heard about Guardian ad Litem from her sister who was a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in Louisiana. What keeps Betsy going is being part of a team, the fabulous training and the clear mission of advocating for the best interests of the children. Betsy truly believes in this program and discussed in detail how she thought it was on the most effective social policy programs. Volunteering with the program makes her feel like things get done for our children in the dependency system.

If there was an overarching theme during the interview with Betsy and Schyler it was that patience and long-term outcomes are what make this volunteer position so rewarding. In an earlier and particularly difficult case, the youth was having problems connecting and was unresponsive to Betsy. After some time, Betsy brought the youth around her Westie — a West Highland White Terrier dog — and the child started to open up to her. In another case, Betsy developed a long-term connection and the child wanted to keep in contact after the case closed. Betsy was present for the birth of her first child and Betsy was so pleased with the youth's success in life including receiving her master's degree and being employed.

Another one of her cases had the child's need for adoption published in a local newspaper. The child was successfully adopted and the adoptive parents even sought out their siblings and adopted them as well. Betsy ran into them years later and they thanked Betsy. For those struggling with a current case or just wanting to start out sometimes patience and time is needed to see the true long-term outcomes and it is truly rewarding.

If you are interested in becoming a Guardian ad Litem or know someone who could be, please call Maritza Waddle at 850-606-1213 or check out www.gal2.org.

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