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ad-vo-cate  n [MEadvocat,  fr. MF, fr. Ladvocatus, fr. pp. of advocare to summon, fr. ad- + vocare to call -- more at VOICE]  1: one that pleads the cause of another;  specif: one that pleads the cause of another before a tribunal or judicial court  2: one that defends or maintains a cause or proposal.ad-vo-cate  vt-cat-ed; -cat-ing: to plead in favor of, syn see SUPPORT

The Guardian ad Litem Program is able to represent thousands of children with the help of volunteers. Program volunteers donate countless hours to the children they represent.  The unique perspective of volunteers, and their often creative solutions, are highly valued by dependency court judges.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Guardian ad Litem?

A Guardian ad Litem is a volunteer appointed by the court to protect the rights and advocate the best interests of a child involved in a court proceeding. The volunteer Guardian ad Litem makes independent recommendations to the court by focusing on the needs of each child. The Guardian ad Litem advocates for the best interests of the child they represent.

A Volunteer Guardian ad Litem is an individual who is appointed by the court to advocate for children who come into the court system primarily as a result of alleged abuse or neglect.  Volunteer Guardians ad Litem are:

  • Individuals who respects a child's inherent right to grow up with dignity in a safe environment that meets that child's best interests.
  • Individuals who assures that the child's best interests are represented in the court at every stage of the case.

Do I have the qualifications needed to advocate for a child?

If you are concerned for the well being of children and a have continuing commitment to advocate for a child until a safe and permanent home is obtained — you will be an effective Guardian ad Litem.

If you are objective and non judgmental and are able to interact with people of various educational, economic and ethnic backgrounds — you will be an effective Guardian ad Litem.

Do I need to be an attorney to be a Volunteer Guardian ad Litem?

No. Anyone with common sense, compassion and dedication to children can be a Guardian ad Litem.

How much time must I commit as a Volunteer Guardian ad Litem?

A Guardian ad Litem must successfully complete 30 hours of certification training and 6 hours annually of re certification training, and spend an average of 10 hours per month working on the case (as with any average, some cases will involve more time, and some less time).

What is the role of the Guardian ad Litem?

The Guardian ad Litem carries out the following activities:

  • Investigation: Carries out an objective, systematic examination of the situation, including relevant history, environment, relationships, and needs of the child. The GAL interviews family, friends, neighbors and members of the child's school.
  • Facilitation: Identifies resources and services for the child and facilitates a collaborative relationship between all parties involved in the case, helping to create a situation in which the child's needs are met.
  • Advocacy: Conveys the best interests of the child to the court and relevant agencies.
  • Monitoring: Keeps track of whether the orders of the court, as well as the plans of the Department of Children and Families, are carried out. 

What are Volunteer Guardian ad Litem responsibilities?

  • Visits the child and keeps the child informed about the court proceedings;
  • Gathers and assesses independent information on a consistent basis about the child in order to recommend a resolution that is in the child's best interest;
  • Reviews records;
  • Interviews appropriate parties involved in the case, including the child;
  • Determines whether a permanent plan has been created for the child in accordance with federal and state laws and whether appropriate services are being provided to the child and family;
  • Submits a signed written report with recommendations to the court on what placement, visitation plan, services, and permanent plan are in the best interest of the child;
  • Attends and participates in court hearings and other related meetings to advocate for a permanent plan, which serves the child's best interest;
  • Maintains complete records about the case, including appointments scheduled, interviews held, and information gathered about the child and the child's life circumstances.

What Is "Best Interest"?

Juvenile court judges use the "best interest of the child” standard when making their decisions in child abuse and neglect cases. Child welfare and juvenile court practitioners and scholars have debated the meaning of "best interest of the child" for years. Books have been written on the subject; however, there is still no concise legal definition for this standard. However, physical safety, emotional well-being, permanent placement in a stable and nurturing home environment that fosters the child's healthy growth and development are all factors to be considered by the Guardian ad Litem.

What types of cases require a Guardian ad Litem?

Cases in which children are under the supervision of the Department of Children and Family, and involved in court proceedings require a Guardian ad Litem. 

How many children does the Guardian ad Litem Program represent?

As of August 2013, the Guardian ad Litem Program represented approximately 21,000 children.

How many people volunteer as a Guardian ad Litem?

As of August 2013, the Guardian ad Litem Program had approximately 9,600 certified volunteers.

How do I learn more about becoming a Volunteer Guardian ad Litem and giving a voice to Florida's abused and neglected children?

Click Here, to fill out a short form and someone from the Florida Guardian ad Litem Program will call you to answer your questions and tell you about becoming a voice for a child or you can call 866.341.1GAL.

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