Guardian Ad Litem Program Provides Role Model, Mentor, Friend, Confidant For Vulnerable Children
By Space Coast Daily // December 21, 2017
caring person on whom a child can rely
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – A Guardian ad Litem is so much more to a child than just their court advocate. A GAL volunteer often becomes a role model, mentor, educational surrogate, friend, confidant, and most important, a consistent caring person on whom the child can rely.
What is a Guardian Ad Litem?
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 court process. Guardians Ad Litem are citizens who volunteer to become part of a court program to represent the best interests of an assigned child.
A Guardian Ad Litem does not have to be a lawyer, counselor, therapist, or parent, since he/she does not perform these roles for the child. The volunteer Guardian Ad Litem is a representative for the child before the court, social service agencies and the community.
What does a guardian ad litem do?
Brevard County Guardian Ad Litem The Guardian Ad Litem represents the best interests of the child in a variety of ways.
They independently conduct a thorough investigation on behalf of the child. He/she interviews many people: the child, counselors, pediatricians, psychiatrists and psychologists, mental health professionals, people from the neighborhood, schools, churches and law enforcement, and friends.
The Guardian Ad Litem also examines and collects records from many sources concerning the child. The Guardian Ad Litem then takes this information to the experts in the community for recommendations on what is best for the child.
The Guardian Ad Litem serves as a monitor of the agencies and persons who provide services to the child. He/she assures that orders of the Court are carried out and that families and children in need receive the help that they should.
The Guardian Ad Litem assures that the child’s wishes are heard and that the best interest of the child is presented to the Court and agencies dealing with the child. He/she writes reports and speaks in court, for the best interest of the child.
A 30 hour 30-hour class provides volunteers with a mentor and our staff members and lawyers advise and counsel during each case. In addition, each program has a network of community resources and experts who are available to assist each Guardian Ad Litem.
ABOVE VIDEO: Members from Guardians ad Litem sit with Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey to discuss the program.
History of the Program
The State of Florida Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) Program resulted from the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974. In 1980, the Florida Legislature appropriated funds to the Office of the State Courts Administrator to implement a pilot program that would examine the effectiveness of a volunteer-based program for the delivery of guardian ad litem services for abused and neglected children.
The evaluation report of the pilot program concluded that the volunteer model, consisting of laypersons recruited, trained, and supervised by professional staff, was a feasible, economical, and effective means of providing guardian ad litem services to Florida’s abused and neglected children.
In subsequent years, the Legislature provided funding for the establishment of guardian ad litem programs in every circuit to represent the best interests of abused and neglected children through a volunteer model.
By 1990, all of Florida’s twenty judicial circuits had volunteer-based programs for the delivery of guardian ad litem services that were administratively managed by the trial courts.
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