The Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program is seeking volunteers willing to advocate for the best interests of abused, abandoned or neglected children involved in the dependency court process.
Currently, more than 2,100 children in Lake, Sumter, Marion, Hernando and Citrus counties have been removed from their homes due to abuse, abandonment or neglect. Most of these children are below nine years of age.
“GAL volunteers make a profound difference in the lives of these children by helping judges decide whether a child should be reunited with his or her family, remain in foster care or in the worst of circumstances, placed for adoption,” says Marcia Hilty, Circuit Director of GAL Program for 5th Judicial Circuit. “They make sure important services are provided. Simply put, a GAL volunteer makes sure everyone does what is best for the child.”
Research has shown that a child will receive more services, spend less time in foster care and do better in school if they are assigned to a GAL volunteer in dependency court. Unfortunately, there are more children in the dependency system than volunteers to serve them at this time.
Eligible volunteers must be at least 21 years of age (adults between 19 and 21 years are eligible to work alongside a certified GAL volunteer) and successfully complete a 30 hour pre-service training program. Volunteers must also be cleared of any serious criminal history through a Level II criminal background screen. On average, volunteers should expect to spend between 10 to 15 hours a month on a case, and most cases last 12 months. The volunteer works as part of a team including a volunteer supervisor and program attorney.
The Guardian ad Litem Program’s next two-day training session will be held on July 13th and 14th from 9am to 5pm in The Villages. Additional training sessions are posted on our Facebook page @gal5th.
To find out more about the program, contact Amarilys Ortega at 352-343-2736 or email Amarilys.Ortega@gal.fl.gov. To request an application, visit www.GuardianadLitem.org