There are more than 30,000 abused, abandoned, and neglected children under the jurisdiction of Florida’s juvenile dependency courts. This number is difficult to fathom given the issues at stake and many wonder what they can do to help. Becoming a volunteer Guardian ad Litem or a pro bono attorney for the Guardian ad Litem Program is an excellent opportunity for Florida attorneys to make a tangible difference in the life of these children. In fact, the investigation and advocacy skills, among other skills, attorneys and those generally trained in the law possess are invaluable tools for volunteer and pro bono attorney guardian ad litems.
Becoming a Volunteer Guardian ad Litem
In Florida, when a child is abused, abandoned, or neglected and cannot remain at home in a healthy and safe environment, the child is removed from that home and a case is opened. The court appoints a local guardian ad litem (GAL) to the file, who is responsible for representing the best interest of the child. The Florida GAL program uses a team approach in their representation of children. In addition to the court-appointed GAL, the Florida GAL program leans on community volunteer guardian ad litems, child advocate managers (CAM), and GAL program attorneys. GAL volunteers bring a community-based, common sense approach to children’s cases. They are supervised and supported by child advocate managers who work for the GAL program. GAL program attorneys provide essential legal counsel, attend hearings and depositions, negotiate outside of the courtroom, and take on appeals. The unique perspective and expertise of each team member complements the others and all are critical in advocating for the best interests of children.