700 E. Twiggs Street, 7th Floor
Tampa, FL 33602
Following is an interview with Gail Greenburg, a volunteer with Guardian ad Litem for Children.
The most valuable gift anyone can give is time. Guidance and words of encouragement given by Volunteer Advocates are priceless to a child without a Guardian ad Litem.
Guardian ad Litem Volunteers have made the decision to speak up for a child in the dependency system, commonly referred to as the foster care system. Currently, there are more than 3,000 abused, abandoned and neglected children in Hillsborough County who are the subject of court proceedings. Children should not endure the system without a champion- that is why the Guardian ad Litem Program exists.
Trained Guardian ad Litem Volunteers commit their efforts to represent these children so that each child’s needs are met and their voices are heard during their time in the dependency system.
Those who join the Guardian ad Litem Hillsborough County definitely make a positive impact in a child’s life.
What exactly does a Guardian ad Litem Volunteers do?
A Guardian ad Litem is a Trained & Certified Volunteer Child Advocate appointed by the court to represent and advocate for the best interest of each abused, neglected, or abandoned child in dependency court. As part of a multi-disciplinary team, Guardians ad Litem are the voice of the child.
Florida is the only state that uses a multi-disciplinary team approach.
This multidisciplinary team includes an attorney, a trained volunteer, and a certified child advocate manager, through the collaboration of our team we are able to provide quality legal representation for the best interests of abused, neglected, and abandoned children while assisting the child in expressing their needs and wishes. Our unique approach allows us to support the whole child, addressing their physical, educational, mental, emotional, social, and legal needs.
Here is how a Guardian ad Litem Volunteer begins:
- The Guardian ad Litem Volunteer may speak with all parties connected to the case including but not limited to: the child, parents, teachers, mental health professionals, physicians etc.
- The Guardian ad Litem Volunteer investigates, acquiring information from many sources concerning the child including medical and educational.
- The Guardian ad Litem Volunteer facilitates, helping families and children in need receive the help that they should while making sure that orders of the court are carried out
- The Guardian ad Litem Volunteer acts as an advocate, for the child assuring that the child’s wishes are heard and that the best interests of the child are presented to the Court and agencies dealing with the child. .
- The Guardian ad Litem Volunteer serves as a monitor, of the agencies and persons who provide services to the child
- The Guardian ad Litem Volunteer reports their findings and presents information to the Court and helps the Court determine what is in the child’s best interests.
- The Guardian ad Litem Volunteer prepares a written report which becomes a permanent part of the child’s record.
What does it take to be a Guardian ad Litem Volunteer and make a difference in the life of a child? Guardian ad Litem Hillsborough County prepares volunteers and teaches them everything they need to know! They provide volunteers with Guardian ad Litem Volunteer certification training. This is a three-part training program that includes an independent study portion, classwork, and hands-on training with an experienced Guardian ad Litem Volunteer.
The independent study combines an on-line segment and readings with a 15 hour classroom portion. Upon completing the 15 hour training volunteers are provisionally certified. They can then be assigned a case and begin the field component under the guidance of their Certified Child Advocate Manager. With the help of the mentor, volunteers learn and experience what it is like to be a Guardian ad Litem Volunteer.
A Guardian ad Litem Volunteer is a specially trained, child advocate whose dedicated advocacy ensures a dependent child’s safety, well-being, best interests and permanent placement. Working within a multi-disciplinary team of Guardian ad Litem attorneys and Certified Child Advocate Managers, and alongside community-based social workers and community service providers, a Guardian ad Litem volunteer serves as the “voice for the child” in judicial dependency proceedings and in helping the child navigate the foster/relative care system.
Direct guidance and coaching of volunteers is provided by a Certified Child Advocate Manager and a Guardian ad Litem Attorney. All of you work together within the multi-disciplinary team model of advocacy.
DUTIES & RESPONSIBILITIES:
Complete, extensive and independent research and review of each case
- Perform monthly child visits in accordance with Guardian ad Litem standards and policies. This includes submitting a child visitation report to your CAM on a monthly basis.
- Speak with the child and relevant adults (parents, family members, school officials, doctors, service providers and others involved in the child’s life that may have facts about the case.)
- Observe the child in interactions with parents, relatives and non-relatives.
Report findings and child’s wishes to the court by submitting reports prepared in accordance with Florida Statutes, Program Standards and policies for scheduled hearings:
Provide a written report containing factual information that you have independently verified utilizing the Program’s court reporting standard. This report is developed in collaboration with your Certified Child Advocate Manager and Guardian ad Litem Attorney.
Ensure representation of the child’s best interests:
- Attend or participate by phone, when permitted by the court, in all court hearings to see that relevant facts are presented.
- Attend appropriate interagency meetings, staffings and mediations pertaining to the child.
. Monitor the case following a court hearing or decision as designated by the court:
- Ensure that the judicial and child welfare systems are moving forward to secure a safe, permanent home for the child.
- Ensure that court-ordered services are provided for the child and family.
Consult regularly with your Certified Child Advocate Manager on matters pertaining to assigned case(s):
- Review case progress and discuss and identify issues concerning the child that need to be resolved.
- Immediately inform your Certified Child Advocate Manager about issues that may impact the child’s safety and/or well-being
TRAINING & SUPPORT PLAN
- Volunteers are required to successfully complete a comprehensive training and 12 hours of in-service training annually.
- Volunteers are required to adhere to the current Standards and the Guardian ad Litem Code of Conduct.
- Volunteers may have access to additional training opportunities offered by other community agencies.
- Volunteers receive direct coaching, mentoring and guidance from a multidisciplinary team that includes an attorney, a trained volunteer, and a certified child advocate manager, through the collaboration of our team we are able to provide quality legal representation for the best interests of abused, neglected, and abandoned children while assisting the child in expressing their needs and wishes.
- Volunteers will receive additional support through the use of local volunteer mentor programs.
- Volunteers must keep in regular contact with their Certified Child Advocate Managers regarding case progress or issues.
- Volunteers are required to commit the necessary time to adequately complete their assigned case(s). Volunteers, on average, spend an average 8-12 hours a month on each case.
- Volunteers are expected to be available for case assignment and to accept cases as soon as possible upon completion of pre-service training.
- Volunteers with a lapse of more than six months without an active case will lose their certification or may become a non-case volunteer as long as the volunteer accepts and agrees to perform another role within the Program
QUALIFICATIONS, KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS & ABILITIES
- Demonstrate the ability to maintain confidentiality and adhere to the Program’s current Standards and Code of Conduct.
- Demonstrate the ability to communicate effectively both orally and in writing.
- Demonstrate the ability to respect people from various ethnic, cultural, religious, social and economic backgrounds.
- Demonstrate the ability to maintain objectivity in stressful or emotional situations.
- Possess the basic understanding of child development and the dynamics of family relationships..
- Exhibit good common sense
NEXT STEP: If you would like to volunteer, complete and submit the following form.