Imagine being a child whose parents are incarcerated, addicted to drugs, abusive or otherwise unable to care for you.
It makes you question who truly cares about you, if anyone.
Children who are abused, neglected and abandoned in Southwest Florida aren’t left to fend for themselves. The court system oversees temporary and permanent placements for children whose mother or father are not optimal guardians, but who helps judges make those decisions?
For two-thirds of these children in Southwest Florida, a Guardian ad Litem volunteer advocate acts on their behalf to helps them navigate the judicial, education and child welfare system. The other third, unfortunately, do not have an advocate serving as their voice.
As a Guardian ad Litem volunteer, we have an opportunity to truly make a difference in a child’s life. We enter their lives at a time of uncertainty – their parents aren’t there to help, and they may have questions about where they’re going to live, who’s going to take care of them, where they’re going to school or what’s going to happen to their siblings. A Guardian ad Litem volunteer becomes that trusted adult figure in their lives who’s always there for them, through thick or thin, and has their back.
Guardian ad Litem Foundation, 20th Judicial Circuit, Inc., has a goal of raising funds to help train additional volunteers so that every child has an advocate in his or her corner. The Foundation provides funding that markets the need for volunteers, recruits and screens potential advocates, trains volunteers and coordinates recognition events that improve volunteer retention.
The Foundation also raises money to help give these youth a “normal” childhood, paying for expenses like birthday presents, clothing, tutoring and registration fees for academic clubs, sports teams and summer camps. Advocates frequently request funds on behalf of children so they can continue enjoying their childhood in spite of the circumstances. Just because a child’s parents are no longer in the same household doesn’t mean they have to forego a birthday party or night at the movies with friends.
Higher rates of substance abuse and the opioid epidemic have forced more children into Florida’s child welfare system. Through no fault of their own, children are placed in out-of-home care settings, many times without advance knowledge. Whether it’s temporary or permanent, their parents are out of the picture.
These at-risk children are relying on us, as a community, to support them.
Guardian ad Litem Foundation, a United Way partner agency, is fortunate to have a wide network of caring individuals who have supported our initiatives over the years, especially those who have attended events that are part of our “I am for the child” fundraising series.
With more youth in the dependency system, however, the Foundation is requesting support from philanthropic-minded businesses and organizations in Southwest Florida. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, all donations to Guardian ad Litem Foundation are tax-deductible. Serving five counties – Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades – our fundraising needs continue to grow.
As we begin 2019, I’d like to ask local businesses, residential communities and civic groups to consider supporting children in this community through Guardian ad Litem Foundation. For more information about volunteer opportunities, donations and corporate sponsorships, please visit VoicesForKids.org or call 239-533-1435.
By Bruce L. Greenberg
Bruce L. Greenberg is president of the board of directors for Guardian ad Litem Foundation, 20th Judicial Circuit, a local nonprofit organization that raises funds to meet the advocacy, health, educational and social needs of abused, neglected or abandoned youth in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties.