Nothing warms the heart more than a child’s innocence. As a society our job is to protect, encourage and develop the next generation to be smart, confident and courageous individuals. What is a Guardian ad Litem you ask? In Laura’s story you’ll discover what a Guardian does, why she became one and how the program has changed her life.
Last Christmas was very quiet for me. My small family of just my brother, his wife and little girl had plans to leave town so we had a small celebration the weekend before Christmas. So while alone on Christmas some deep thought went into why I had no family of my own.
I hadn’t met prince charming, at least not the one I would marry, and I always dreamed of adopting children instead of having my own. I thought it would be the ultimate gift to provide for a child that was already here. Well, let just say life doesn’t always go the way you envision.
During the Christmas season when in the spirit of giving most non-profit organizations are looking for donations. When you don’t have money to give the next best thing is to donate your time. I had volunteered as a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Fort Lauderdale since 2007. My little sister wasn’t so little anymore and we weren’t spending as much time as we used to. So I searched the web for other opportunities to help children and make a difference. I found the Guardian Ad Litem program and was inspired by the cause and the opportunity to get better acquainted with the foster program.
I understood these children lived the heartbreaking stories most people have nightmares about. I knew it would be hard to face, but I thought, no matter how hard it was for me, it’s ten times harder for the children going through it.
I went through an interview, orientation, and three 8-hour trainings to get certified. The Guardian Ad Litem training opened my eyes to the tragedy happening right in my community. It’s the kids next door, in every corner of society, being abused or neglected. And we, as guardians play a big role in protecting them…possibly even saving their life. There are thousands of cases and the court system is constantly overwhelmed. As volunteer guardians we play a vital role in supporting the system and easing the financial burden of the state.
My role as a guardian is to advocate for the best interest of the child and report back to the court with my recommendations. I visit children at home and school, speak with their family, and fill out monthly reports for the judge. Additionally I attend hearings so that I’m able to make recommendations based on my findings. Although there are many parties involved, including the parents, family members and the state, the Guardian’s responsibility is to focus solely on the best interest of the child while permanent custody is debated.
My eyes and my heart have been opened through this experience and I hope I can continue to make a difference. While a case may involve many children, my first case was just one little boy. As I get more acclimated to my duties I may take on more cases in the future. Some guardians manage over five cases at a time because of high demand. Volunteer if you can…there’s a child out there that needs you.
Learn more about how you can apply to become a Guardian ad Litem volunteer.