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A New Class of Volunteers Sworn in at Cabinet Meeting

On Wednesday, January 18, 2012, the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program attended Governor Rick Scott's Cabinet meeting at the Florida Capitol.

Circuit Director Deborah Moore was on hand to witness Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles T. Canady swear in twenty new guardian ad litem volunteers, discuss child advocacy issues and stand with Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office Executive Director Alan Abramowitz as Governor Scott presented him with a resolution recognizing the program.

You can download the press release or read the text below. You can also look at photographs from the event in our Volunteers Sworn In 2012-01-18 set on Flickr.

 

GUARDIAN AD LITEM SWEARS IN NEW CLASS OF VOLUNTEERS AT THE MEETING OF THE GOVERNOR AND CABINET
Volunteers were sworn in by Chief Justice Charles T. Canady, Florida Supreme Court.

TALLAHASSEE, FL — The Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program attended the Governor and Cabinet Meeting on January 18, 2012, where Chief Justice Canady administered the oath that will allow approximately 20 private citizens to speak on behalf of Florida's children. The Guardian ad Litem Program represents the interests of children in court proceedings by enlisting dedicated volunteers to be an independent voice for those children who are alleged to have been abused or neglected.

"Guardian ad Litem volunteers are a special group because they are committed to the relentless advocacy for the well-being and best interest of the children they serve," Governor Rick Scott said. "I am thankful for each of the nearly 8,000 Florida GALs currently making a difference in the lives of children every day, and I welcome the new guardians being sworn in today."

Deborah Moore, 2nd Judicial Circuit Director states, "I am grateful for this opportunity and honor to witness the swearing in of our guardian ad litem volunteers. These volunteers will help bring positive change and improve outcomes for many children in our community. Our Program is so fortunate to have these exceptional individuals stepping up for our children."

Governor Rick Scott presented Executive Director, Alan Abramowitz, with a Resolution that recognizes the Program for its commitment and many years of service to this state's dependent children.

This new class of volunteers brings the Program one step closer to the goal of 10,000 voices for children. "The support shown by Governor Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott is incredible. I would like to thank the Governor for recognizing the Program and the need for its volunteers to serve as independent advocates for Florida's children," stated Alan Abramowitz. There are approximately 32,000 children in care and approximately 10,000 children still in need of a voice to guide them along their path to a permanent home. These new volunteers will be assigned children and start their journey to help our most vulnerable citizens. Nick Nichols will be sworn in as a guardian ad litem volunteer. "To become a voice for our most precious resource, our children, is a responsibility not to be taken lightly. I am humbled and honored to be able to represent children in situations that they did not cause," stated Nick Nichols.

If you are interested in learning more about the Guardian ad Litem Program or want to become a volunteer, please visit our website at www.gal2.org, or contact Deborah Moore at (850) 606.1218.

CONTACT
Deborah Moore, Circuit Director
Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program
1-850-606-1218

New and Updated Events: Volunteer Training

We regularly host a variety of events to provide community outreach, raise awareness of our program, recruit new volunteers, fund raise and furnish training to our volunteer guardians ad litem. The following events have been recently added to our calendar.

Volunteer guardians ad litem are required to complete thirty hours of pre-service training in order to become certified and undergo regular recertification. The training curriculum includes classroom learning, reading, court observation and practice activities. The sessions are typically scheduled over the course of six evenings, each lasting three and a half hours.

Strategic Campaign for 10,000 Voices

On Friday, January 6, 2012, the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office hosted a news conference for a statewide initiative to kick off a strategic campaign to recruit 10,000 child advocates for abused, abandoned, and neglected children.

You can download the press release or read the text below.

 

GUARDIAN AD LITEM PROGRAM STRATEGIC CAMPAIGN FOR 10,000 VOICES
Alan Abramowitz, Executive Director, calls for child advocate volunteers.

TAMPA, FL — The Statewide Guardian ad Litem Foundation will host a news conference for a statewide initiative to kick off a strategic campaign to recruit 10,000 child advocates for abused, abandoned, and neglected children. The Guardian ad Litem Program represents the best interests of children in court proceedings by enlisting dedicated volunteers to be an independent voice for those children who are alleged to have been abused or neglected. There are approximately 31,000 children in Florida's foster care system today. With nearly 8,000 volunteers, the Program is able to give a voice to 22,000 of those children. Who will be the voice for those 10,000 children?

To promote awareness and recruit volunteers, the Guardian ad Litem Foundation has secured funding to air a pair of public service announcements (PSAs) throughout Florida. These PSAs were created by National CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) to raise awareness for these vulnerable children. This recruitment campaign is titled "I am for the child" and captures the Program's mission. These children need someone to be their voice in court to stand up for them, to advocate on their behalf, and to be there for them. Our volunteers are role models, mentors, and the true heroes for these children. Although the law defines these volunteer child advocates as "Guardians ad Litem," to these children they are truly guardian angels.

Alan Abramowitz, Executive Director of the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office, will be in attendance, along with Mag McGauley and Jane Munroe from the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Foundation, Michael Piraino, CEO of National CASA, Senator Ronda Storms, Representative Rich Glorioso, Doug Sessions of the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida, and other Tampa delegates who recognize the need and value of Guardian ad Litem volunteers.

Senator Storms stated, "Many children in our state are alone in the big, wide world—with no one on their side, no one looking out for them, no one to protect their best interests. Some fortunate children have guardians ad litem on their side, making decisions to protect them and look out for them—to truly transform a child's future. Please, please consider learning more about the Guardian ad Litem Program and the great things they do. Time, money and prayers—pick one or all three, but do something so that every precious child who needs a guardian ad litem will receive one."

As stated by Alan Abramowitz, "Our message is simple but profound...by becoming a volunteer child advocate, you will learn this reality: 'To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.' The 'I am for the child' Campaign allows us, in just 30 seconds, to reach out to those special adults who are inspired to make a difference in the life of a child as a Guardian ad Litem volunteer."

Representative Glorioso stated, "The public private partnership the Guardian ad Litem Program demonstrates emphasizes the relationship between businesses, non-profits, and our communities in protecting Florida's children and helping families. We continue to support these volunteer child advocates so one day, all children will have a voice."

Secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families David Wilkins added his support to this initiative and stated, "DCF sent me the following quote for Secretary David Wilkins. "The challenge of providing all of Florida's children with the opportunity to dream of a better future is enormous. But it is truly the highest of moral callings and it requires the work of our Department, our community partners, businesses and volunteers. I have repeatedly seen first-hand the impact of a volunteer Guardian ad Litem on a child's life and the rewards are great for the child, the volunteer and our state's future. I encourage any Floridian who wishes to help a child to volunteer with the Guardian ad Litem program. The impact one person can have is incredible."

Tracy Scholes on behalf of Janice Caluda, Executive Vice President of The Florida Cable Telecommunications Association "is pleased to partner with the Guardian ad Litem Foundation and the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida to spread their very worthy message—that all of us are the community that cares for children. We are leveraging our cable networks to give the partners $80,000 of advertising time over the next three months. Look for the spots on a cable network near you and congratulations on what will be a very successful campaign."

Please join us and be a part of our campaign for 10,000 Voices!

Friday, January 6, 2012
2:00–3:00 PM
Glazer Children's Museum
110 W. Gasparilla Plaza
Tampa, Florida 33602

The Guardian ad Litem Foundation acknowledges the partnership of the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association for their assistance in implementing this public service outreach throughout our state and its diverse media markets.

CONTACT: Alan Abramowitz, Executive Director
Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office
1-850-241-3232

Alan Abramowitz: New Letter and Video

Alan Abramowitz

On Monday, December 12, 2011, Alan Abramowitz sent a letter by way of the Florida Guardian ad Litem Foundation discussing Governor Scott's budget recommendations for fiscal year 2012–2013.

He also recently filmed a segment of The Florida Channel's Point of View interview show wherein he discusses the program, its mission, his role and how people can help.

You can read the text of his letter and watch the video below.

Letter

Dear Guardian ad Litem Volunteers, staff and supporters,

The Governor's Budget Recommendations were published on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 and the Guardian ad Litem Program did not have any budget cuts. The Governor's Office has been very supportive and has kept me informed every step of the way. I appreciate this relationship.

We have a Legislative Budget Request of $3.9 million and I will continue to advocate for these funds with the Legislature. It is great news we were not cut. The Governor's Representative that presented the budget in Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee stated that if the dollars are found, the Governor supports it. This means a great deal to the children who our volunteers give a voice.

We need to continue to reach maximum capacity by recruiting more volunteers and retaining the ones that are already dedicated to children. This puts our Program in a better position to advocate for additional dollars. Today we are not at that capacity. We are moving in that direction and need to keep up that pace as we continue to make the business case for a fully funded program that ensures EVERY child has a volunteer child advocate.

The Governor has also recommended the evidence-based prevention program, Healthy Families, have $2 million dollars restored. Investment in prevention is important to our Program because there will be less children in foster care that need Guardian ad Litem's if parents were given the tools to give their children a healthy environment.

I want to make it clear that the Governor and the First Lady are friends of our Program. The Governor's Office offers us technical assistance and support as we continue to make our business case.

Thank you for your support and we will continue to provide more information as we go through the legislative session.

Feel free to call me if you want to discuss or share your comments.

Alan F. Abramowitz
Executive Director
Florida Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office
alan.abramowitz@gal.fl.gov
Main line: 850.922.7213
Personal cell: 850.241.3232

Alan Abramowitz on "Point of View" The Florida Channel 2011-11-02

New Events: Recruitment Coffees

We regularly host a variety of events to provide community outreach, raise awareness of our program, recruit new volunteers, fund raise and furnish training to our volunteer guardians ad litem. The following events have been recently added to our calendar.

Volunteer Recruitment Coffees
Have your questions answered, talk to current volunteers and learn about our program at our monthly Volunteer Recruitment Coffee. Members of our Volunteer Recruitment Committee will be on hand to discuss the rewards of becoming a guardian ad litem and guide you through the application process.

Ask a Mentor: Prioritizing the Child's Needs

Volunteer Question

I just finished my first visit to the two children in my case. I am just overwhelmed with the long list of needs which the caregiver identified and I don't know where to start. The list includes everything from clothes to diapers and a bed for the three-year-old. The caregiver also wants help getting Medicaid for the children. This is my first case and I'm not sure how to handle all of this.

Mentor Answer

The first thing you must do is remember that you are not a social worker or the dependency case manager (DCM)—your commitment is to advocate for the children. Working on these needs is primarily the responsibility of the DCM. Call the DCM and ask her about the things on the list and see what she is handling. If there is something the DCM says the agency just cannot provide but which you feel is important, talk with your volunteer supervisor about possibilities for finding a way to meet that need.

A part of your advocacy for children includes knowing their needs and knowing who is obligated to respond to the needs. Then you keep monitoring whether or not the needs are being met. Gradually as you become experienced, you will become more and more familiar with resources and how to make use of them when you believe there are needs—such as a tutor—that the guardian can help meet. You probably remember from your training that Child Advocates II, the nonprofit which supports our work with children in this circuit, is one such resource.

New Events: Alternative Christmas Markets

We regularly host a variety of events to provide community outreach, raise awareness of our program, recruit new volunteers, fund raise and furnish training to our volunteer guardians ad litem. The following events have been recently added to our calendar.

Guardian ad Litem at the Alternative Christmas Markets
The markets feature local and international charities and not-for-profit organizations who are on hand to educate the public and accept donations in the name of a family member, friend or colleague. Visit the markets to chat with our volunteers, have your questions answered and give the gift of a donation to our program.

We need volunteers that can answer questions about our program to work our table. Shifts will be one to two hours in duration. Notify the event contact if you can help!

In Print: Tallahassee Democrat Editorial

On November 27, 2011, the Tallahassee Democrat published an editorial piece in support of the Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program.

In addition to describing our important mission, the article encourages people to help us meet our current volunteer recruitment goals and/or provide assistance to Child Advocates II, Inc., our non-profit support organization.

The editorial is presented below in case you missed it. Thank you to the Tallahassee Democrat!

Our Opinion: Worthwhile commitment

Sunday, November 27, 2011
Tallahassee Democrat
Opinion/Editorials


Sometimes reports about the plight of children in our communities are so overwhelming that we get lost searching for answers, leading to ineffectiveness. Those who take the extra step by getting involved truly deserve a salute from the rest of us.

For instance, 10 children now have families to call their own following an adoption ceremony last week at the Leon County Courthouse in honor of National Adoption Month. It was hosted by the Florida Department of Children and Families and the Children's Home Society. Similar programs are being held throughout the state this month, when a couple hundred children will celebrate going home with families of their own.

But according to DCF, 19,957 children are in foster care living with families or group homes. That indicates the number of children in need in our state.

Closer to home, there is an important opportunity for volunteers to represent children who need an advocate in their corner through the Second Judicial Circuit's Guardian ad Litem program. The agency is looking for at least 31 volunteers to step up to assist children living in Leon and five other surrounding counties.

In communities throughout Florida, volunteers with Guardian ad Litem work tirelessly behind the scenes to represent youth without voices. They bond with the child to whom they're assigned, visit the child's home, establish a relationship with teachers and help steer the child to community services that are available to meet that child's needs.

It's been said that a child working with a program volunteer is not likely to languish in the foster-care system, is more likely to find a safe home and is less likely to have to return to the child welfare system.

Because of its name, many may have the misconception that one must be an attorney or well-versed in family law to serve as a guardian ad litem. That is not the case. What the department needs are compassionate adults who are willing to commit a year to being the voice and advocate for a child in our community whose circumstances have come to the attention of the courts.

A critical need is to add more men to the ranks of volunteers, especially black and Hispanic men.

"Most of our guardians are not attorneys," said Deborah Moore, director of the program in this judicial district. "They come to this because they love children. We are happy to have that (legal) expertise, but a concern and passion for children is what we look for."

The 31 additional volunteers would go a long way toward helping address the needs of the 508 children in the system locally. Child Advocates II, a nonprofit organization, also is associated with the program. It is primarily charged with raising money that goes toward meeting the needs of the children represented, from clothing to money for school trips. It also is in need of volunteers.

In this season of giving, there are few gifts that match the gift of stepping up to represent the needs of a child.

YOU CAN HELP

For more information on how to become a Guardian ad Litem volunteer, go to www.gal2.org.

Copyright © 2011, Tallahassee Democrat. All Rights Reserved.

Event Update: GAL Day 2012

Our event flyer for the 2012 Guardian ad Litem Day at the Capitol has been updated to include a detailed but tentative two-day schedule.

Sponsored by the Florida Guardian ad Litem Foundation, Guardian ad Litem Day is a fun and unique event that brings volunteers, members of the community and legislators together to discuss and expand awareness of the needs of Florida's dependent children as well as honor the achievements of the program.

Checkout the lineup, mark your calendars and RSVP today!

Ann Scott: Letter of Appreciation

Last week, First Lady Ann Scott wrote a letter of appreciation to all of Florida's volunteer guardians ad litem.

You can download the original letter or read the text below.

 

November 23, 2011

Dear Guardian ad Litem Volunteer,

Thank you for your courage and commitment to abused and neglected children in Florida. As a mother, grandmother, and First Lady of Florida, I appreciate your hard work and applaud your volunteerism on behalf of our youngest and most vulnerable. I am personally committed to helping all children in Florida have a safe and permanent home. Thank you for sharing this goal.

The advocacy you provide as a guardian ad litem volunteer is vital to every child in the child welfare system. Children with a guardian ad litem volunteer are much more likely to find a safe and permanent home and less likely to languish in foster care.

Your independent advocacy extends well beyond the courtroom. Your advocacy prevents homelessness and reduces the chances a child will bounce from home to home or school to school. Your advocacy is a reminder that children are astonishing little humans and not statistics, numbers, or case files. You provide hope, unconditional support, and normalcy in an ever-changing and unpredictable world.

Our community benefits as a whole from your good work. Together, we will make Florida a place where all of our children are safe, healthy, ready to learn, and prepared to achieve their full potential.

Thank you for your service to the children of Florida this holiday season and throughout the New Year.

Sincerely,

 
Ann Scott
First Lady of Florida


Special thanks to Alan Abramowitz for sharing this letter.