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Guardians ad Litem needed

By Staff | Nov 30, 2011

To the editor:

A Guardian ad Litem is an ordinary person doing extraordinary work to protect the best interests of children who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in court due to allegations of abuse, abandonment or severe neglect. As an independent party, Guardian ad Litem volunteers are court appointed special advocates, gathering information and making recommendations to the court concerning the child’s needs for safety and stability and for their physical, mental and emotional health and well being. They answer to no one but the child.

Each and every day I am amazed and inspired by the selfless work our volunteers do on behalf of children’s best interests. Our volunteers go above and beyond for children each and every day. While the state employs some amazing individuals that are working on behalf of children, Guardian ad Litem volunteers are able to focus on a single child in ways that a staff person cannot. They have the time to devote hours-as many as are needed-to make sure their visits with the child are meaningful, or to communicate with teachers and counselors to assess the child’s needs, or to sit down with parents to hear how things are going. They travel great distances and sacrifice their own personal agendas so that a child has their own voice in the courtroom and the community. Take for example the guardian who travels to the other coast every single month so that their case child still seems the same familiar face regardless of the distance between them. She doesn’t have to go herself-but she does. Or the guardian who takes phone calls from her case child multiple times a day, because she’s one of the only people he knows he can trust.

While Guardian ad Litem volunteers come from all walks of life, they all share a passion to make a difference in the lives of abused, abandoned, and neglected children. They do not relent until they achieve the ultimate goal for the child-a safe permanent home. For both the abused children and for the Guardian ad Litem volunteers advocating for them, the experience can be life-changing. Consider the story of young Brandon. Brandon did not always have a Guardian ad Litem speaking on his behalf, assisting in the process of finding an adoptive family for him. But when our Guardian ad Litem met him while visiting another child at his foster home, she immediately jumped at the opportunity to take his case. Since then, Brandon’s adoption profile has been corrected to reflect his true personality and we are confident an adoptive family will be found for him soon.

As of Sept. 30, the Circuit 20 Guardian ad Litem Program was 462 volunteers strong and representing 938 children in dependency. While that seems remarkable, our work is far from over. There are still more than 300 children who need a Guardian ad Litem volunteer. This work can only be done with the support of our local community. What better way can local citizens contribute to the improvement of our community than to volunteer on behalf of a child? A child that will one day grow up and have a family of their own. We will continue to work until every single child in dependency receives the voice they need and deserve. One of our judges often tells new guardians, “This is the hardest job you’ll ever love.” Are you ready to take the challenge?

If you’d like to learn more, please call 1-866-341-1425.

Raelyn Means

20th Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program

Fort Myers