You’re here because you care about helping our community’s most vulnerable children.
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.
In Broward County alone, there are over 3,000 abused, neglected, and abandoned children have been removed from their homes and placed in the dependency court system.
The Guardian ad Litem Program is part of a national network of 933 community-based programs that recruit, train and support citizen-volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children in courtrooms and communities. GALs are volunteer advocates—empowered directly by the courts—offer judges the critical information they need to ensure that each child’s rights and needs are being attended to while the children in foster care and child welfare system.
Interested in being a voice for a child? Email email@example.com to receive a call from a staff member who will tell you more about advocating for Broward’s abused and neglected children.
History of the GAL Program
The first Guardian ad Litem was appointed in 1974 when the federal government enacted the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, which provided financial assistance to states for the prevention, identification and treatment of child abuse and neglect. In order to qualify, states were required to appoint a Guardian ad Litem (initially, an attorney) to protect the child’s interests upon entering the legal system.
In 1976, the Honorable David Soukop of Seattle, Washington, concluded that there were not enough attorneys to advocate for these children and that, for those cases without a GAL, he did not have adequate information to make educated decisions about the future of these children’s lives. In the following year, Judge Soukop assisted with the beginnings of the Guardian ad Litem Program, which uses trained volunteers to be advocates for our communities’ abused, abandoned and neglected children. In Florida and in a number of other states, we continue to use the original name of “Guardian ad Litem”; however, the majority of state programs are now known as “CASA”, which stands for “Court Appointed Special Advocate”.
In Broward County, the Guardian ad Litem Program was implemented in 1983 with a handful of volunteers and one staff member. Today, the Program has grown to include almost 50 staff members and nearly 750 volunteer advocates. Our Program is a member of the National CASA Association, a network of over 1000 Programs and more than 60,000 volunteers nationwide, serving more than 240,000 children.
Together in Broward County, the volunteers and staff currently advocate for over 3,000 children.
Becoming a GAL
Broward County’s Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program is home to over 700 community volunteers who, with the help of professional staff, advocates for the best interest of the children alleged to be abused, abandoned, or neglected involved in court proceedings. The program uses a team approach to advocate for the children, lay volunteers, child advocate coordinators, and attorneys. Using the team approach, the GAL Program collects comprehensive information about the child and family, attend hearings, and take steps to further the child’s best interests.
Click here to read more about the impact the GAL Program has on volunteers and young people.
Click here to read how GAL volunteers change lives.
To become a volunteer, you must pass a background check, provide three letters of reference, participate in an interview, and complete training.
For more information, please contact the Guardian ad Litem Program
612 S. Andrews Ave., Suite 1000
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301