Giving, caring, protecting, advocating, listening – these are some of the words that describe the spirit of the Guardian ad Litem Program. Each day, GAL volunteers help shape the future and create hope for the children of Florida who have been neglected and abused. Their work with the Guardian ad Litem Program on behalf of children is a pursuit of the heart.
GAL volunteers do not work alone however. Floridians from every walk of life support their work. There are many people in the community who work tirelessly for Florida’s children; their work for children is also a pursuit of the heart. Without these community supporters the work of the Florida GAL Program would be much more difficult. The Guardian ad Litem Program has established the title of Honorary Guardian ad Litem for those select community leaders who have gone to great lengths to support the program’s mission and goals. This page will give you a snapshot of the fine work by these individuals, each of whom deserves our gratitude for the contributions they have made in many areas of child welfare service.
Senator Nancy Detert was named an Honorary Guardian ad Litem at the Children’s Guardian Fund of Sarasota’s 2013 Fall Luncheon. Senator Detert has devoted her career to advancing the well being of foster children and teens. During the 2013 legislative session, she sponsored two successful bills: one which restores normalcy to the lives of youth in foster care, and another (the “Nancy C. Detert Common Sense and Compassion Independent Living Act”) which allows foster teens to remain in foster care until age 21. The Senator sponsored the original bill in Florida which established the Independent Living Program. She also testified before the Ways and Means Committee of the US House of Representatives in May 2013, sharing Florida’s initiatives with a national audience. Detert is known for her love of young people and has spent many hours listening to the personal stories of teens in foster care. Senator Detert continues to advocate for foster youth so they are treated like our own children as she leads the state in advocacy for Florida’s kids.
Representative Ben Albritton feels that lawmakers should focus on people and with his tireless focus on foster children, this year Rep. Albritton sponsored a bill that will help countless foster children have childhood memories they will cherish forever. The law allows children in foster care to take part in everyday activities—just like their peers. After receiving a recent award for his work, Rep. Albritton said, “These kids deserve normalcy.” “They’re looking for hope.” He also said to the Guardian ad Litem volunteers “I love you and appreciate you.” The appreciation is mutual— the foster care children in Florida thank you Representative Albritton—our newest Honorary Guardian ad Litem.
Tampa Bay Rays first baseman James Loney and his wife Nadia were named Honorary Guardians ad Litem during pre-game festivities on Wednesday, July 11 at Tropicana Field, where the Rays hosted Guardian ad Litem Night. The announcement honoring Loney was made by Alan Abramowitz, Executive Director, before he and Justin threw out the first pitch in the game against the Minnesota Twins. Loney and his wife are featured in new public service announcements to recruit volunteer Guardians for the Program in the St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay areas. Loney is making news this season, with an April batting average of .373. In early July, Loney boasted a 15-game hitting streak, which tied his career high.
Representative Keith Perry of Gainesville became an Honorary Guardian ad Litem when he was presented with the award by Executive Director Alan Abramowitz at a GAL event on June 6, 2013. Perry was the House sponsor of the 2013 landmark legislation on Independent Living, which extended the opportunity for foster youth to remain in care until age 21. Together, he and Senator Nancy Detert advocated tirelessly for normalcy for foster youth and for strengthening services to youth aging out of care. Representative Perry has a long history of support for human services issues and programs. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Salvation Army and is a Habitat for Humanity volunteer. Perry formerly served as a Board Member for Boys and Girls Clubs.
State Senator Rob Bradley is a champion for children. Senator Bradley has shown his commitment to Florida’s children through the work he has done as chairman of the Senate’s Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice which funds court services. Even though Senator Bradley is a freshman senator, he was appointed to chair this committee - a very important role as the committee determines funding for the courts, as well as the Guardian ad Litem Program, Clerks, conflict attorneys and many others.
Senator Bradley consistently advocates for funding to provide a Guardian ad Litem volunteer to every one of Florida’s dependent children. He has pledged to work with the Guardian ad Litem Program in the coming years to advocate for increased funding to allow every dependent child to have a Guardian ad Litem volunteer. This year his work was crucial to a significant increase in funding for the Guardian ad Litem Program. He was also able to shift funding to prevention services in the Department of Juvenile Justice and Department of Corrections. His dedication and continued support will help the GAL Program reach all of Florida’s dependent children and create a better future for thousands of Florida’s children.
Recently, when he was honored with the award of “Honorary Guardian ad Litem” he said, “The real heroes … [are] the guardian volunteers … Their advocacy for these children truly changes lives.” He is right, and that is why Senator Bradley is an Honorary Guardian ad Litem- he is changing lives.
Tanya Wilkins, RN, BSN, wife of Department of Children
and Families Secretary David Wilkins, began her career as an advocate long
before her husband came to DCF. She and her husband mentored foster children
and provided leadership at the Florida Baptist Children’s Home in Tallahassee.
Since becoming the first lady of DCF, she was named by Governor
Rick Scott as Florida’s Volunteer Advocate for Foster Care and Adoption, within
the Governor‘s Office of Adoption and Child Protection. Mrs. Wilkins leads the
Fostering Florida‘s Future Workgroup, whose goal is to recruit 1,200 new foster
parents, retain current foster parents, and celebrate all of Florida‘s foster
parents. In that capacity, Mrs. Wilkins played a strong role in advocating for
passage of the Quality Parenting for Children in Foster Care Act (the normalcy
bill) that passed the Legislature unanimously this year and was signed into law
on April 11.
Mrs. Wilkins was a featured speaker at the annual
Guardian ad Litem Day reception on April 4, 2013. At that time, she was
presented with the first “Honorary Guardian ad Litem” award by Alan Abramowitz,