Friends of Children proudly supports the Guardian ad Litem Program by ensuring that there are funds available for the GALs to use when children on their cases are in need. Whatever the need may be- toys, clothes, summer camp assistance, etc- Friends of Children is a great resource for the GALs to turn to. Below is an anonymous entry by one of our many amazing GALs that depicts the process and commitment it takes to become a Guardian ad Litem…
I didn’t exactly have the best childhood, but I survived and eventually flourished because of the caring people in my community. I wanted to give back and help other children, but didn’t know if I had the strength, time, or energy. Every day, I drove by the same billboard that was calling for volunteers. It finally brought me to my computer, where one click led to another, and I ended up on the Guardian Ad Litem website. They were looking for volunteers. I didn’t need to be a lawyer or a social worker, all I needed to do was fill out an application and have a background check completed.They were looking for regular people like me, a full-time mom with a part-time job. They were also looking for men of all ages, retirees and people who work full time. I became more and more excited as I filled out my application, knowing that I could make a difference advocating for children in court!
I started my training process online. From the comfort of my home, I watched videos and read articles about child abuse and substance abuse. I learned more about what a normal childhood should look like and how domestic violence can directly impact children.After my online training portion was completed, I was ready for my 12 hours of class time. The Guardian ad Litem staff taught me about team models, legal training, and report writing. There was so much information that I often felt overwhelmed but I was reassured over and over that the learning would all come together. I would be able to handle it because I would be surrounded with an awesome support system along the way.
To finish my training, I made an appointment with my mentor and Child Advocacy Manager (CAM). I met them in the GAL office and we discussed the open cases that involve children who are in need of a Guardian to advocate for them. I chose one relatively close to my house, two little girls who were abandoned by their mother and father. We reviewed the case file, discussing how to go about contacting the Case Manager and the parents. I then did 2 hours of court observations along side my CAM as she explained to me what was going on throughout the hearings I observed. The final step of my training was to go visit “my” girls in their foster home, with my mentor present. It was a good way to break the ice and relieve some of my nerves during the initial visit as I had someone to guide me through it.
Since my training is complete, I am now responsible for visiting the girls in their current placement once a month. I speak with their foster mother and make sure there are no major issues in the home. I talk to the girls about their wants and needs and I make recommendations to the Judge. Are they happy? Are they doing well in school? Do they like their placement? What are their immediate and long terms needs to feel like normal, happy children? I have spoken with the schools they attend and to counselors they have sessions with. I complete monthly reports that I turn into my CAM regarding the home visits and prepare reports for the court when there is a court proceeding. My CAM helps me along the way when I have questions with my reports, when I need direction, or when I need advice on my case. Because of the support that I get, I am fully prepared when the Judge asks me how the girls are doing and if there is anything that they need.
Now that I have a case, I spend about 8 hours a month working with this family. I find it to be quite flexible for my schedule. I can see the girls when my time allows, make phone calls, write reports, or send emails in the early morning or evening hours. My biological child knows that I am helping the lives of another family and it makes me feel proud to pass on that sense of commitment and community to her.
Check out the Guardian ad Litem Program here in Brevard County: http://www.brevardcounty.us/GuardianAdLitem/