October is Pro Bono Month, when the nation recognizes the contributions of attorneys who volunteer their services to others.
At the Florida Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program, we know the impact these pro bono attorneys can have. Statewide, they're using their skills, knowledge, and compassion to help abused, abandoned and neglected children and achieve our program’s mission of helping these children find safe, permanent homes.
Whether advocating for a child in the dependency system or mentoring a child who needs extra support, our legal community routinely steps up and volunteers.
"Our partnership with pro bono attorneys helps us tremendously in making sure children find a safe, permanent home as quickly as possible," said Dennis Moore, interim Executive Director of the GAL Program.
The number of attorneys volunteering with Guardian ad Litem has grown more than 50 % statewide over the last year. With support and training from the program, pro bono attorneys bolster projects such as Defending Best Interests, which represents hundreds of children during the appeals process.
Pro bono attorneys who volunteer their legal skills with Guardian ad Litem create better outcomes for children and youth. They work with thousands of GAL volunteer child advocates to help provide a brighter future for Florida’s children.
Locally, too, the program is recruiting more attorneys to serve as advocates on cases in the 2nd Circuit.
"It isn't necessary to be an attorney to be a GAL volunteer, but it is helpful when the time comes to prepare court reports, attend hearings, or sometimes testify about a child's best interests," said local GAL Pro Bono Attorney Barbara Busharis who volunteers as a GAL Volunteer Advocate. "The program’s attorney does all the necessary court filings, while I concentrate on gathering information and getting to know the children."
In celebration of Pro Bono Month, we want to recognize and thank all pro bono attorneys who tirelessly and selflessly volunteer to help children and youth, especially in foster care. They are making a difference – one child and one case at a time. But since the job is never done, we hope other attorneys will follow their lead and help the GAL Program represent the best interests of children in court and the community.
"As a GAL Volunteer Advocate for the past 14 years, I have witnessed the profound need for additional volunteer advocates to represent our most vulnerable children," said Terry Rigsby, also a local GAL pro bono attorney. "At the same time, however, I feel our community is blessed to have such a dedicated GAL Program, which always strives to act in the best interests of the child."
We encourage others to thank pro bono attorneys for their service.
For more information on how you can volunteer your legal skills with the Guardian ad Litem Program, please visit www.gal2.org.
Deborah Moore is the Circuit Director for the Guardian ad Litem Program in the 2nd Judicial Circuit.