Every child deserves a normal life.
The definition of “normal” might vary, but we can all agree that children should have a stable home environment, be able to balance schoolwork with play and generally enjoy being a kid.
For children whose parents are in jail, addicted to drugs or abusive, their description of “normal” can be anything but.
Several years ago, I began supporting the Guardian ad Litem Foundation, 20th Judicial Circuit. The wonderful nonprofit organization provides funding to recruit and train volunteer advocates who serve as the voice for children in the judicial, education and child welfare systems. The organization also provides financial assistance to help meet a child’s basic and developmental needs, as well as extras like birthday parties, summer camps and movie tickets, or even a new pair of jeans and school supplies.
Knowing that my donation helped a child have fun at the arcade, enjoy ice cream with friends or take a spin around the go-cart track certainly is gratifying, but funding to train additional volunteers is crucial. Several hundred children in Southwest Florida do not currently have a volunteer advocate working on their behalf. That means when children are in court, they might just be in a room with attorneys and judges, and without a familiar face as a trusted ally.
Guardian ad Litem Foundation needs additional volunteers willing to be a partner for Southwest Florida children. After volunteers complete an initial training program and become court-certified, they are provided biographical information on children currently in need of an advocate. They can select one or more children based on age, location and other factors.
The minimum requirement is one face-to-face contact per month; those usually last from 30 minutes up to three hours. Contacts can be formal sessions at the courthouse, or more informal settings like dining at a restaurant or playing mini-golf. Volunteers often meet with educators for parent-teacher conferences, accompany children on doctor visits and spend time in their new household.
Case managers handle much of the legal workload; children just need another trusting adult by their side from time to time. Many of our volunteers are retirees who simply want to see a child succeed, and I’m glad to have a role in helping children overcome a difficult time in their lives.
For more information about volunteer and donor opportunities, please visit VoicesForKids.org or call 239-533-1435.
Bruce L. Greenberg