I promised my friends I would periodically blog about my volunteer work as a certified Guardian ad Litem. I work in support of the Circuit Court in Hillsborough County, Florida. The Cliff Notes version of this post: Being a Guardian is tough. It’s rewarding. It makes you cry. It can make a difference.
Guardians are trained and then appointed by the court. They are unpaid. We collect school and medical records, talk to our assigned child and his parents/caretakers, other family members, teachers, physicians, and other adults who have direct knowledge of our child’s needs and circumstances. We work independently but hand in hand with the family’s assigned caseworkers and the government agencies involved in the case. Our focus is making sure the child’s best interests are served.
Our conduct and what we can say about our work as a Guardian are bound by strict behavioral and confidentiality rules. I can say that when a child is removed from his or her home for what’s determined to meet the legal definition of child abuse, neglect, or abandonment, no one is happy and everyone suffers, even and especially, that child. It’s just a different suffering than the suffering that led to the child’s removal from his or her home. I have an assignment now. I can’t afford to acknowledge the anger I could feel toward the parents in this case. Better to focus my energy on their child’s needs and do the best I can to make sure he gets the better future he deserves.
In Hillsborough County there are thousands of children who are removed from their homes every year, and not enough Guardians to watch out specifically and only, for these children’s interests. These children need a friend. They need you. If you have the time and the desire, look into your local Guardian ad Litem program. Here’s a link to Hillsborough County’s GAL program. You don’t have to be retired to make a real difference in the lives of children who were not born as lucky as yours – that is, to a parent or parents who are willing and able to give their children the love, support, and attention each child deserves.