The Florida Guardian ad Litem Program is a partnership of community advocates and professional staff providing a powerful voice on behalf of Florida's abused and neglected children. Become a vital part of the advocacy team and discover how you can make a difference in a child's life.
Thousands of abused and neglected children become the subject of judicial proceedings each year in Florida. Their voices are often unheard, and best interests overlooked in the complicated and overburdened dependency court process. Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Volunteers are appointed by the court to advocate for children who have been abused, abandoned and/or neglected. GALs develop a consistent relationship with the child, serve as educational advocates, help the child to experience and participate in normalcy activities, and most important, they make independent recommendations to the court to ensure a safe, caring, stable, and permanent environment for the child.
Today, there are approximately 10,000 active Guardian ad Litem Volunteers in Florida representing more than 23,000 children. The 8th Judicial Circuit advocates for approximately 550 children in the dependency court system.
The value of the Guardian ad Litem Volunteers is significant. Studies show that children with a volunteer:
- Do much better in school
- 50 % less likely to return to foster care
- Have fewer placements
- Receive more needed services
- Are more likely to be adopted
- Spend less time in foster care
In addition to the overwhelming value of Guardian ad Litem volunteers to the dependent children whose best interest they represent, the GAL volunteer base is of tremendous value to the State of Florida. GAL volunteers save the State of Florida $40 million in salaries and benefits. It would take over 964 full time employees to do the work of these volunteers.!
Why Volunteers give their time, experience, and heart to the GAL Program
Everyone needs to know that life can be beautiful! Many are not given fair opportunity to reach their highest potential or even dream and that is something every human being should have a right to do. As a GAL I can not only make a day in a child’s life brighter, but their whole future can be brighter. Tamela G.
In 2014, the 8th Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program was appointed to more
than 500 children who were victims of abuse, abandonment and/or neglect.
I am a volunteer for the Guardian ad Litem Program because I learn so much from my girl! She is my hero. She has been through hell and back. Through all the turmoil in her life, she still has a positive attitude and smiles. She is an inspiration to me.Naomi K.
There are over 300 volunteers who are there for the children in our circuit.
I volunteer because I am the one constant person in the child’s life that is not going away. Parents may go, case workers may change, schools and teachers may change, but I will always be there working to find that forever home and make sure the children know there is someone there for them.Jessie M.
In 2014, 330 children with Guardian ad Litem in our circuit
reached permanency and their cases were successfully closed.
There are many reasons why I have been a GAL for over 16 years, but the main reason is the blessings I
receive. When you are able to make a child’s life safer, better and make that child feel loved and able to trust again, then that is your reward. Their smiles and hugs are all the thank you that is needed.
Case assigned volunteers in 2014 have served our children for an average of 3.4 years.
Being a GAL means I can give a child hope for a better tomorrow. Through my voice, the monsters in the closet can disappear, hurt and pain can be eased, fear and anxiety can be comforted and a sense of normalcy can be restored. I can climb over a child’s mountain high walls and build trust and fight for their best interest. Sheena L.
40% of our children are African American and we increased
our African American volunteer base in 2014 by 11%.
It gives each of us an opportunity to make children’s lives better...what greater gift can there be? Candy P.
In 2014, the number of valuable retired volunteers increased by 8%.
I became a volunteer in the early 1990’s because of things I saw happening in families close to me and the effect it had on their children. I could not do what I wanted to help those kids but by becoming a Guardian ad Litem Volunteer and now as the Chair of the Guardian Foundation, I could help others children who had even worse things happening to them. Susan Faulkner O’Neal
The Guardian Foundation (not for profit) gave about $29,000 in grant funding
in direct support of the 8th Circuit GAL Program in 2014
John Donis and Curleesha. John has been a
volunteer to 14 children…and counting… since 2008. He says he feels privileged and honored to be an advocate for them. Each of them has enriched his life in so many ways.