This page contains all published In Print blog posts — containing newspaper articles, news stories and other media about us — sorted chronologically with the newest at the top.

In Print: Tallahassee Board of Realtors Blog

On Friday, August 1, 2014, an article written by Brian Sealey, Child Advocates II, Inc. (CAII) Board President, was published on the Tallahassee Board of Realtors blog. Sealey's piece describes the role and mission of our program, how CAII provides support and what people can do to help.

The article is part of a month-long effort by the Tallahassee Board of Realtors to highlight the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program with their members. As Sealey is a local realtor, he was the perfect person to introduce the world of guardians ad litem to the real estate community.

Thank you to Brian Sealey and the Tallahassee Board of Realtors for providing this public outreach.

Sealey's article is presented below in case you missed it.

Volunteer Spotlight: Guardian ad Litem
by Brian Sealey

Friday, August 1, 2014
Tallahassee Board of Realtors Blog

"Children are the greatest gift God will give… their souls are the heaviest responsibility He will place in your hands."

— Lisa Wingate

Children in the foster care system are a demographic largely overlooked and forgotten. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 400,000 children are in the foster care system during a fiscal year. When it is reported that a child's home is no longer safe, a judge may appoint a committed volunteer to help them. That volunteer is called a court appointed special advocate, or guardian ad litem (GAL).

The guardian ad litem volunteers are screened, highly trained and sworn into service by a judge. These volunteers advocate for a child's best interests in the child protection system. Working with the Florida Department of Children and Families and the court, GAL volunteers save not only taxpayer's money (fourth year in a row recipient of the Florida Tax Watch Prudential Davis Productivity Award), but also children's futures by helping children find safe, permanent homes as soon as possible.

As an advocate for abused families and chair of its 501(c)(3) Child Advocates II (CAII), I am firmly and humbly dedicated to the powerful mission of this organization — the mission to support and promote court-appointed volunteer advocacy so that every abused and neglected child can be safe from harm, establish permanency and have the opportunity to thrive. Led by Circuit Director Deborah Moore, the local Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program has been taking a stand for abused and neglected children involved in the juvenile and domestic relations courts.

Our vision is that we live in communities where every abused and neglected child removed from their home has a trained GAL volunteer until they secure a safe and permanent one. We seek to ensure children don't get lost in an overburdened legal, social and community service system, or become forgotten in a foster home. Most of these children come through our doorways hurt, scared and abandoned. A few even find their way to us due to the plight of poverty and homelessness. For many abused and neglected children, their GAL volunteer will be the one and only constant adult presence in their life.

The opportunity for these children to not just survive but thrive has always been my ambition. In 2014, CAII in collaboration with the Guardian ad Litem Program launched two initiatives: First Beginnings and Beyond the Basics. Many youth move into their first home with no furniture and only an air mattress upon which to sleep. Often there is no family nor existing resources to provide household essentials like furniture, linens and kitchenware; First Beginnings provides youth that are aging out of foster care with everything they need for their first home. Beyond the Basics is built on the belief that a school experience is beyond just paper, pens and book bags. It was created to provide guardian ad litem children the ability to experience a normal and balanced education experience through financial and in-kind donations from individuals and companies throughout the community. With Beyond the Basics, children can participate in educational camps, sports and academic trips for which many of our kids qualify but couldn't attend due to financial limitations.

How can you help?

First and most importantly, maintain an awareness of child abuse and neglect as a growing problem in our communities. Speak with your neighbors, colleagues and community organizations about the Guardian ad Litem Program, its mission and work.

Consider becoming a volunteer advocate for neglected and abused children. You will receive adequate training. Once certified, you will spend a few hours each month and you'll have a professional supervisor to guide you along the way.

Get involved with our local Child Advocates II non-profit. Child Advocates II, Inc. (CAII) is a charitable, 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, all-volunteer organization founded to support the GAL program. Through fundraising, CAII supports the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program in providing for the needs of abused and neglected children in Leon, Gadsden, Wakulla, Jefferson and Liberty counties. Established in 1988, CAII conducts fundraising and marketing activities to provide the needs of children by securing basic necessities such as beds, baby supplies and clothing, which would not have been available with state agency support alone.

We have hundreds of dedicated GALs — men and women encompassing all age groups and backgrounds. They work full-time, part-time, are retired, are students. Some GAL volunteers have only one case child; others opt to advocate for more than one or a group of siblings. Because of the unique nature of this advocacy work and the personal connection to a child, many GAL volunteers find that their service is the experience of a lifetime.

I am a Voice for the Child… will you join me?

Brian Sealey
Keller Williams Town and Country Realty

Copyright © 2014, Tallahassee Board of REALTORS®. All rights reserved.

In Print: Florida Bar News and Tallahassee Democrat Blog

On Monday, April 28, 2014, an article written by Volunteer Recruiter Sara Blumenthal was published in the Tallahassee Democrat community blog. Featured by regular contributor Ellen Piekalkiewicz, Executive Director of United Partners for Human Services, Blumenthal's piece discusses Senate Bill 744, the Keys to Independence Act under consideration this legislative session.

In addition, the May 2014 issue of The Florida Bar News includes two articles about the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program, current legislative budget proposals and a recent recognition.

Thank you to Sara Blumenthal and Ellen Piekalkiewicz, plus to The Florida Bar and Tallahassee Democrat for sharing our program with their readers.

The three articles are presented below in case you missed them.

Driving Towards Success
by United Partners for Human Services

Monday, April 28, 2014
Tallahassee Democrat Community Blog

Thanks to Sara Blumenthal, Volunteer Recruiter, Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program for submitting today's content.

As anyone in Tallahassee knows, the 2014 Florida legislative session is coming to an end. One of the main issues during the session has been child welfare. This year, the Guardian ad Litem program, which advocates for the interest of children in the state system, has been a huge proponent of Keys to Independence, new legislation that will remove the obstacles so youths in the dependency system can get their driver's license.

One of the biggest milestones in a person's life is when they turn fifteen and embark on the journey to procure a driver's license. It is a time of learning, a time of sitting behind the wheel and pressing on the gas pedal for the first time. Then, when their sixteenth birthday rolls around, they head to the DMV and take that picture for their first driver's license. That laminated card provides a newfound freedom on their path towards adulthood. It prepares children for a life of both success and responsibility. A driver's license allows them to drive to school or jobs, and to feel included in American society.

Unfortunately, most children in the dependency system do never get to experience that. Due to both legal and financial reasons, only two percent of youth who leave the dependency system do so with a driver's license. These children are faced with enough problems, and not being able to get a driver's license is one of the easiest to fix.

Guardian ad Litem volunteers have always tried to help our youth achieve normalcy and responsibility, and a path to independent transportation is a key component of that goal. This has been met with obstacles along the way, many of which will hopefully be removed with the passage of the new legislation.

The Keys to Independence received overwhelming support in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Our elected officials are well aware of our children's needs, and the Keys to Independence serve as an important step in addressing them.

Guardian ad Litem's only interest is the child's interest, and our volunteers work tirelessly so that the voice of every child in the child welfare system is heard. Guardian ad Litem stands tall in the corner of every child who has suffered abuse or neglect, and will continue to do so. The Keys to Independence is just the latest effort our program has made to help our children, to give them better and brighter futures. We are for the child.

For more information, please visit the Guardian ad litem website

Copyright © 2014, Tallahassee Democrat. All rights reserved.

GAL Program recognized for productivity
by The Florida Bar News

Tuesday, April 29, 2014
The Florida Bar News

For the fourth year in a row, the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program received the Prudential Davis Productivity Award sponsored by Florida TaxWatch.

The GAL Program was recognized for its work in moving children out of foster care and into permanent homes. In addition to improving outcomes for children, the program saved more than $2 million in money for foster care during the 2012–13 fiscal year.

"This is actual, tangible proof that outsiders have said [our volunteers] are doing a good job and making a difference," said GAL Executive Director Alan Abramowitz.

While the program saves the state tax dollars, Abramowitz said it also safeguards something perhaps even more valuable.

"Probably even more important to our volunteers is how much heartache it reduces," he said.

Copyright © 2014, The Florida Bar. All rights reserved.

Bump in funding should provide a GAL for every child who needs one
by Megan E. Davis, Associate Editor

Tuesday, April 29, 2014
The Florida Bar News

While Florida law dictates that courts appoint a guardian ad litem to every abused, abandoned, or neglected child, the mandate has gone unmet for decades.

Finally, that's about to change.

In December 2012, the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program served about 70 percent of children in the dependency system.

With limited resources, the program was forced to "triage" cases, providing GALs to those deemed most in need.

With the help of a $6.1 million funding increase included in the recently released Senate and House budget proposals, the program hopes to provide GALs to all children in need of one, said Alan Abramowitz, executive director of the agency.

"This will bring us to the point where every child has that advocate being a voice for them so we can get better outcomes for children," he said. "We anticipate that next year will be the last year to get to 100 percent."

At the same time, the program plans to celebrate its 10,000th volunteer along with its 35th anniversary. Abramowitz credits support from the governor and Legislature for helping move the program forward.

"They've heard our volunteers in the field and listened to children and realized how important this program is," he said.

About 80 percent of children in the dependency system now have GALs, due to an overhaul of the agency's structure, which expands the use of volunteers.

Under the program's old model, paid staff managed large caseloads of about 45 dependent children.

Rather than caseloads of children, paid staff now supervise about 38 volunteers each, who in turn represent close to 80 children.

At last count, more than 9,000 volunteers served the program.

The model is both "more effective and efficient," Abramowitz said.

"You have one volunteer with two children who knows them better than anybody, so they can develop that trust, know the child's needs, and make sure they're met," he said.

"The court will understand that these recommendations are from someone who knows the child well and is independent, unbiased, and has no interest in the case except the child."

Miranda Phillips, 21, of St. Petersburg, was assigned a GAL when she went into foster care at age 12.

"Even though she's not technically my GAL anymore, I still talk to her," she said. "She's one of the only people who was there through the whole thing. Caseworkers change and houses change, so it's like having someone stable who knows everything about you and isn't going to leave."

Phillips said her GAL helped in ways no one else could.

"If you need help and no one else is listening, they're going to listen and they're going to take it to the judge," she said. "They help you have a voice."

As both an attorney and a GAL volunteer, Steve Uhlfelder of Tallahassee said the program safeguards the rights of children.

"I think a strong guardian can make sure the interest of the child is fully appreciated and protected," said Uhlfelder, a former Bar Board of Governors member. "I really encourage lawyers to get involved with the program."

As a volunteer, he helped make sure a neglected child's needs were meet.

"Now he's in a good foster home, and I'm trying to work to make sure the best place for him to go will be determined by the court," Uhlfelder said.

As a GAL volunteer, Sue Schultz of Lakeland said she also embraces the opportunity to make sure children's needs are met — whether reuniting siblings split up in the foster system or stopping mandatory visits between a boy and the father who molested him.

"Every child needs someone who isn't part of the system," she said. "It's easier for me to talk to foster parents and parents, and it's certainly easier for me to talk to children."

Fourth Circuit Judge David Gooding said he finds the insight GALs bring to dependency cases invaluable.

"I've been alerted by a GAL volunteer when a child had a 106- degree temperature and the mother didn't get the medicine for the child that she needed," he said. "The GAL brought it to my attention, and I brought it into court and got the problem solved."

In other cases, Gooding said GALs have also alerted him to the need for dental work or eyeglasses for dependent children.

"I can tell you if the GAL volunteers weren't here, I'd probably quit," he said. "I believe every child involved in the legal process should have one."

Schultz said she looks forward to the day when 100 percent of children in the dependency system have a GAL.

"When the program started, it was only the worst cases that got guardians, so if it can be all kids, that will really kind of be a miracle almost," Schultz said.

Copyright © 2014, The Florida Bar. All rights reserved.

Sara Blumenthal: Community Outreach, Volunteer Recruitment

Although our mission is simple — advocating for the best interests of children is our only interest — success in fulfilling it would not be possible without the generous support and combined resources of our volunteers, community supporters and staff.

As volunteers move out of the area or have other life events that preclude them from accepting new cases, we must continually recruit and share our mission with the community. Over the past five days, Volunteer Recruiter Sara Blumenthal has been busy doing just that.

She first participated at the Leon County Safety Fair hosted by Leon County Emergency Medical Services at Governor's Square Mall on Saturday, April 5, 2014. Alongside CPR demonstrations, safety activities and tours of first responder vehicles, Blumenthal staffed our information table where people could learn about our program, ask questions and get applications to volunteer.

Original Photo Credit: --- Volunteer Recruiter Sara Blumenthal at the Leon County Safety Fair at Governor's Square Mall in Tallahassee, Florida on April 5, 2014.


Then during last Tuesday's Children's Week events at the Capitol, Blumenthal had an opportunity to talk with Tallahassee Democrat reporter Jeff Burlew.

During a three minute interview, Blumenthal talks about our program and highlights current issues before the legislature this session such as the Keys to Independence Act. You can watch the video on the Democrat website: "Power Players Talk Children's Issues".

Thank you to Leon County EMS, the Tallahassee Democrat and of course Sara Blumenthal!

In Print: WCTV Visits CAII Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids

Logo: WCTV Eyewitness News

On Saturday, February 8, 2014, television's WCTV Eyewitness News covered the CAII Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids event held at Leon High School.

Written by Emily Johnson, the article discusses the Child Advocates II, Inc. (CAII) fundraiser in support of the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program that invited professional and amateur bakers to engage in a friendly competition. The public was invited to purchase tickets and sample the goods.

Thank you to WCTV for sharing our program with their viewers. The article is presented below in case you missed it.

Sweet Treat Fundraiser For Kids
by Emily Johnson

Saturday, February 8, 2014
WCTV Eyewitness News

Tallahassee, FL — Sweet treat were being served and eaten at the Leon High School cafeteria this afternoon. It was all for the Child Advocates II, Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids Fundraiser. The Child Advocates II organization is a not for profit, volunteer group that raises money for the Guardian ad Litem program.

"When you support a program like this it provides the resources necessary to give some sense of normalcy for the kids. If there are things they need that's hard for someone to provide then Child Advocates II tries to provide those resources for the Guardian ad Litem, so those things can be met," said Kristine Lamont, Child Advocates II.

Child Advocates II says they had 40 to 50 folks come out for the delicious treats.

Copyright © 2014, WCTV Eyewitness News. All Rights Reserved.

In Print: The Times Apalachicola and Carrabelle

Logo: The Times Apalachicola and Carrabelle

On Wednesday, January 22, 2014, an piece about our program was featured in the The Times Apalachicola and Carrabelle newspaper.

Written by Lois Swoboda, the article provides an overview of what we do, talks about a recent community outreach opportunity led by Volunteer Recruiter Sara Blumenthal and notes the support provided by Child Advocates II, Inc. (CAII).

Thank you to The Times Apalachicola and Carrabelle for sharing our program with their readers.

The article is presented below in case you missed it. Please note that while the original piece incorrectly referred to Sara Blumenthal as "Karen", the reproduction below corrects this error.

GAL seeks to serve every child
by Lois Swoboda

Wednesday, January 22, 2014
The Times Apalachicola and Carrabelle

The guardian ad litem system is making it easier to volunteer in Franklin County.

A guardian ad litem (GAL), an advocate appointed by the court to represent the interests of an underage person, serve as the voice of the child and may represent the child in court. GALs may assist where a child is removed from a hostile environment, usually by the Florida Department of Children and Families, and in those cases may assist in the protection of the minor child.

GALs are also appointed in cases where there has been an allegation of child abuse, neglect or juvenile delinquency. In these situations, the GAL represents the best interests of the minor child, which can differ from the position of the state or government agency as well as the interest of the parent or guardian. A guardian ad litem is an officer of the court and in Florida, is usually a volunteer.

At the Jan. 9 luncheon of the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce, Sara Blumenthal, spokesperson for the GAL program, urged Franklin County residents to consider representing a child.

She said volunteers are desperately needed. She said guardians ad litem require 30 hours of training in Florida.

Blumenthal said GAL will hold a training session in the county this spring to make it easier for county residents to participate. Once trained, advocating for a child requires about 10 hours a month, much of it spent doing research or speaking with people outside of the courtroom.

Except for court dates, the schedule for GAL volunteers is flexible. Court dates take place in Franklin County.

Blumenthal said, in addition to representing the children in court, GAL volunteers seek to provide more normalcy for children who are neglected, abused and displaced.

A second not-for-profit, Child Advocates II (CAII), supports GAL by raising funds to provide clothing, transportation, school supplies, housing, medical and dental care and more for children whose total needs are not met by existing state agencies. This may include children in the foster system and young people over 18 who "age out" of care and may be handed their belongings in a plastic trash bag and left with no place to go.

CAII helps kids aging out of the system to get set up in their first home. Blumenthal said that in 2013, they provided gifts for more than 400 children at Christmas. CAII serves Leon, Franklin, Gadsden, Wakulla, Jefferson, and Liberty counties.

For more information about CAII, GAL and volunteering opportunities, visit or call (866) 341-1425.

Copyright © 2014, The Times Apalachicola and Carrabelle. All Rights Reserved.

WFSU 'Perspectives' Features GAL Program, Upcoming Fundraiser


On Thursday, January 16, 2014, the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program was featured on an entire episode of Perspectives, WFSU's listener call-in radio program.

Hosted by Tom Flanigan, the nearly hour-long episode highlights our program and mission while featuring commentary from Circuit Director Deborah Moore and two program volunteers, Child Advocates II Board President Brian Sealey and CAII Board Member Kristine Lamont.

Flanigan and company discuss the role of guardians ad litem in the court system, share stories of how volunteers and community supporters make a difference in the lives of children and give information on the upcoming CAII Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids fundraiser. Several callers also had the chance to ask some great questions and have them answered.

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

Perspectives is broadcast live every Thursday at 11:00 AM on WFSU 88.9 FM. Thank you to WFSU and Tom Flanigan for sharing our mission with their listeners.

Original Photo Credit: WFSU --- CAII Board Member Kristine Lamont, CAII Board President Brian Sealey, 'Perspectives' Host Tom Flanigan and Circuit Director Deborah Moore

Kristine Lamont, Brian Sealey, Tom Flanigan and Deborah Moore
Photo: WFSU

In Print: Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids Fundraiser

Logo: CAII Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids

On Thursday, January 9, 2014, an article written by Child Advocates II, Inc. (CAII) Board Member Kristine Lamont was published in the Chronicle edition of the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper.

Advertising the CAII Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids fundraiser, the article provides the general public with a basic introduction to the upcoming event, a friendly competition for amateur and professional bakers.

In addition to the newspaper, CAII has also arranged for appearances on local television and radio to promote the fundraiser and increase awareness of the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program and our mission.

Later today on Sunday, January 12, Lamont will be joined by fellow CAII Board Member Dana Powell for an episode of The Good Morning Show on WCTV-DT (8:00 AM, Channel 6.1). Lamont will also join Circuit Director Deborah Moore, CAII Board President Brian Sealey and host Tom Flanigan on Thursday, January 16 for an episode of Perspectives on WFSU-FM (11:00 AM, 88.9 FM).

Thank you to Kristine Lamont for her work organizing the CAII Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids event and sharing our program with the public.

The Tallahassee Democrat article is presented below in case you missed it.

Child Advocates II to host Cupcakes & Cookies for Kids fundraiser
by Kristine Lamont

Thursday, January 9, 2014
Tallahassee Democrat
Chronicle Edition

On Saturday, Feb. 8, Child Advocates II (CAII) will hold a Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids fundraiser from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Leon High School cafeteria. The competition offers professionals, amateurs and youth an opportunity to submit cupcakes and cookies for judging in a friendly competition.

Profits from the event will be used to support the Second Judicial Circuit's Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program. The public can purchase tickets to enjoy a selection of the entries and learn which entries are winners.

Visit the website ( to view a copy of the rules, enter the competition, become a sponsor, and purchase tickets. Tickets will also be sold at the door on the day of the event.

There are 5 levels of competition: Professional ($50 entry fee), Amateur ($30 entry fee), and Youth High, Middle and Elementary School ($15 entry fee).

Each ticket to the event costs $20 and has 10 stamps on it. Ticket holders use the stamps to buy a cupcake or cookie. One stamp will buy one mini-cupcake, one cookie or one cupcake box; two stamps will buy one regular size cupcake. If people use up the stamps on their ticket, they may purchase additional tickets at the door.

Sponsorships are available at a number of levels with benefits including complimentary entries and complimentary tickets.

Child Advocates II is a local non-profit corporation which supports the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem program. Visit the GAL ( and the CAII ( websites to learn more about the program and the organization and how you can help.

In Print: Guardian ad Litem — A Chance to Make a Difference

On Sunday, November 10, 2013, an article written by guardian ad litem volunteer Leigh Merritt was published in the Active Living section of the Tallahassee Democrat.

Merritt is a long-time supporter of the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program. Starting her relationship with the program in 2000 as a volunteer, Merritt joined our staff in 2002 and served as assistant circuit director from 2006 to 2012.

Although missed since her departure for the Office of the State Courts Administrator, Merritt continues to be a valuable part of our program as a volunteer and supporter.

Thank you to Leigh Merritt for her public outreach and to the Tallahassee Democrat for sharing our program with their readers.

The article is presented below in case you missed it.

Guardian ad Litem offers a chance to make a difference
by Leigh Merritt

Sunday, November 10, 2013
Tallahassee Democrat
Active Living

Staying involved with the community is essential for many of us. The Guardian ad Litem program is proud to have a wide age range of volunteers.

Stuart Zirin, GAL Volunteer, shares his experience: "Volunteering with the Guardian ad Litem Program has been one of the most fulfilling activities of my life. Making a positive difference in children's lives makes me feel a sense of great satisfaction and accomplishment. As a retired person, rather than being idle and non-productive, the program has given me opportunities to remain active and socially engaged."

What is required? A 30-hour training is offered every month; home visits, family interviews and court appearances take about 8–10 hours a month — the average time commitment.

What support is offered? Peer Mentor is assigned to every new volunteer; there is a team approach with staff on each case; and there is an annual volunteer awards ceremony.

Volunteer Dot Binger has this to say of her experience with Guardian ad Litem: "When I began to think about retiring, I realized I had to continue being involved with the welfare of children and youth. After all, I had spent 45 years teaching young people. In 1989, I learned about the Guardian ad Litem Program and its only purpose — that of advocating for the best interest of abused and neglected children. That was it as far as I was concerned — where I need to be involved! The passion for doing this advocacy has remained with me for 24 years, and I find that retirement has a great purpose."

Volunteers Dot Binger and Leigh Merritt will be guests at Chaires/Dorothy C. Spence Community Center on November 26. Bring your questions and join us for lunch!

Next volunteer training begins Dec. 2. To apply, call 850-606-1218, or go to

Copyright © 2013, Tallahassee Democrat. All Rights Reserved.

Scan of Tallahassee Democrat article by Leigh Merritt, November 10, 2013

In Print: The Florida Bar News

Logo --- The Florida Bar

The November 2013 edition of the Florida Bar News features an article about a recent swearing in ceremony held by the Fourth Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program in Duval County, Florida.

It also summarizes the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program's Legislative Budget Request and plan to achieve complete representation in three years.

The article is presented below in case you missed it.

You can also read about and see photographs from our most recent volunteer swearing in ceremony on Wednesday, October 23, 2013.

Thank you to the Florida Bar for featuring a fellow program with their membership!

Fourth Circuit swears in 75 new GALs
by The Florida Bar News

Friday, November 1, 2013
Florida Bar News

Fourth Judicial Circuit Judge David Gooding swore in a new class of 75 guardians ad litem in front of the Duval County Courthouse in October. Statewide, the Guardian ad Litem Program depends on 8,624 certified volunteers and an additional 962 non-certified volunteers who do not carry cases to help fulfill its mission to represent the best interests of children in the dependency court system.

Photo Credit: The Florida Bar News (Fourth Judicial Circuit Judge David Gooding swearing in a new class of seventy-five guardians ad litem in front of the Duval County Courthouse in October 2013)

GALs work directly with children who have been removed from their parents' custody due to allegations of neglect, abuse, or abandonment. Guardians become familiar with the child and the child's case in order to make recommendations to the dependency judge to help ensure a safe, caring, stable, and permanent home environment.

Statewide GAL Executive Director Alan Abramowitz has proposed a three-year strategy to reach full representation of all children in the dependency system, as mandated by Florida Statutes but never realized. During FY 2014–15, he said, the GAL Program will place a priority on reaching 100 percent of all children in out-of-home care, and children on post-placement supervision after reunification. This will bring the program to representing 80 percent of all children in the dependency court system.

To achieve this goal, Abramowitz is asking the Legislature for $6 million to hire 106 new positions that support the work of the volunteer GALs. For FY 2015–16, Abramowitz will ask for 78.25 new FTEs and another 76.25 FTEs in FY 2016–17. The three-year goal is to finally achieve 100 percent representation of all children under court supervision.

Copyright © 2013, The Florida Bar. All Rights Reserved.

Twenty New Volunteers Sworn In As Guardians ad Litem

On Wednesday, October 23, 2013, twenty new volunteers — consisting of graduates from our July, August, September and October training classes — were sworn in as guardians ad litem at the Leon County Courthouse in downtown Tallahassee.

The ceremony began with Deborah Moore who welcomed, thanked and congratulated the volunteers. She introduced the members of her staff in attendance as well as the current volunteers who came to show their support.

Next to thank the volunteers and speak was the Honorable Judge George S. Reynolds III. During his brief talk, Judge Reynolds drew a comparison between guardians ad litem and judges as normal citizens who sometimes don a (metaphorical or real) robe and take on additional duties.

Judge Reynolds also discussed the process from the perspective of the bench, highlighting the importance, value and essential nature of guardians ad litem to the judicial processes to which they contribute.

Next, special guest Florida Senator William J. "Bill" Montford took a few minutes to speak to the volunteers and their guests. A former teacher, assistant principal, principal and county commissioner, Senator Montford has experience with our mission from various angles and expressed his appreciation to the volunteers.

Following Senator Montford's remarks, the volunteers approached the bench and formed a semi-circle in front of Judge Reynolds, Senator Montford and the circuit judge presiding over the swearing in ceremony, the Honorable Judge Martin Fitzpatrick.

While the Honorable Judge Karen Gievers has performed our guardian ad litem swearing in ceremonies since July 2012, she was presiding over a family court case hearing and was unable to attend. Fortunately, Judge Fitzpatrick was available and had the opportunity to address the volunteers prior to administering the oath.

After meeting and speaking to the volunteers, Judge Fitzpatrick asked them to raise their right hands and repeat the oath as administered. Finishing the ceremony, Judge Fitzpatrick congratulated the new guardians ad litem and the courtroom broke into applause.

Concluding the event, Judge Fitzpatrick, Judge Reynolds and Senator Montford posed for photographs with the volunteers and thanked them individually.

In attendance at the ceremony for WCTV Eyewitness News, Reporter Garin Flowers took the opportunity to speak to several volunteers and staff before interviewing Senator Montford and newly sworn in volunteer guardian ad litem Joanna Winters on camera.

Flowers' story aired on the 11:00 PM news on October 23, 2013. Earlier in the week, he also covered one of our continuing education events.

Thank you to Senator Montford and Legislative Assistant Taylor Gilbert for attending and welcoming our newest volunteers; Judge Fitzpatrick and Judge Reynolds for being able to participate at the last minute; WCTV and Garin Flowers for sharing our mission with their viewers; and our friends at Alaska CASA who on Twitter welcomed our new volunteers to the CASA family.

We are very proud of and thankful for all of our volunteers and the work that they do.

Congratulations to our newest volunteer guardians ad litem!

To see our fifty-eight photographs from this event, view Volunteers Sworn In 2013-10-23 on Flickr.


Are you interested in learning more about becoming a volunteer guardian ad litem?

Do you know someone who would make a great volunteer advocate for children?

Please help us in recruiting additional volunteers so that we can provide a guardian ad litem for each and every child that we represent. Visit and join us for Make A Difference Day.