Children shut in by coronavirus need Guardian Ad Litem volunteers
Hundreds of abused and neglected children shut in by the coronavirus are expected to soon need volunteer child advocates under the Brevard County Guardian Ad Litem Program.
“Not all kids are safer at home with their parents,” countywide volunteer recruiter Georgi Grootershe said. “Once kids are back out in the community, we will be facing a public-health-crisis level of influx in cases. We need to ramp up volunteers now.’’ There are nearly 900 children depending on volunteers, simply called Guardian Ad Litems, who are individually designated to a child by a judge. However, there currently are only 280 volunteers — all of whom now have to work virtually — who have gone through the extensive training process, she said.
Once trained, the time commitment for a Guardian Ad Litem is 10 hours per month. There currently are 250 children in Brevard County who “don’t have anybody checking in on them,’’ Grooters said.
A Guardian ad Litem is much more to a child than just a court advocate. They often become a role model, mentor, educational surrogate, friend, confidant, and most important, a consistent caring person on whom the child can rely, she said.
They officially serve as a monitor of the agencies and persons who provide services to the child, assure that orders of the court are carried out and that families receive the help that they need.
A Guardian ad Litem does not have to be a lawyer, counselor, therapist, or parent, since he or 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.
There is a required 30-hour (virtual) training class during which volunteers are provided with a mentor and advise on specific types of cases from staff members and lawyers.
The State of Florida Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program resulted from the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974. By 1990, all of Florida's 20 judicial circuits had Guardian ad Litem services.
For more information, call 321-271-1304 or go to GALBrevardcounty.org