Brevard Family Partnership held an appreciation event for Brevard 18th Circuit Dependency Judiciary and Guardian ad Litem staff and volunteers. Brevard County has over 1000 children in foster care. These children are removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect, and abandonment by their parents. The Guardian ad Litem is appointed to these children to be their voice in court proceedings, to help navigate them through the process and to insure they are not lost and forgotten in the system.
Learn more about the Guardian Ad Litem program through the eyes of a volunteer:
A few years, I realized I needed to do more with my days. My route home took me past a Brevard Family Partnership billboard, looking for foster parents. It certainly peaked my interest and one click led to another on my computer and brought me to the Guardian Ad Litem website. They were looking for volunteers and all I needed to do was fill out an application and have a background check. It was okay that I wasn’t a lawyer or didn’t have a social work background.
They were looking for regular people like me, part time job and a full time mom. They were looking for men of all ages, retirees and people who work full time too. I grew so excited, as I turned in my application. 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 and substance abuse. I learned more about what a normal childhood should look like and how domestic violence and drug use can directly impact children.
I was ready for my 12 hours of class time. The Guardian Ad Litem staff taught me about their team model, legal training and report writing. There was so much information that I often felt overwhelmed but was reassured over and over that the learning will all come together and I would be supported throughout my case.
To finish my training, I made an appointment with my mentor and Child Advocacy Manager. I met them in the GAL office and we discussed the open “cases,” children who have entered the system and 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, talked about how to be in touch with the Case Manager and parents and then spent two hours observing court proceedings. My final step of the 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 on that initial visit.
Now that my training is complete, I am responsible for checking on these girls once a month, in their placement. 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.
The Case Manager and I are always in communication, sharing information about the children. I am fully prepared when the Judge asks me what is going on in their lives and what they need. I complete monthly reports to the GAL office and when there is a court proceeding, I prepare a Judicial Review. My manager helps me along the way, when I have questions with my reports and when I need direction or advice on my case.
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 and write reports or send emails in early morning or evening hours. My own 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.
To learn more about being a powerful voice for our children, contact one of the Guardian ad Litem Volunteer Recruiters, Amber Olesen or Altara Warren at 321-690-6823.