Although the summer has officially started and we are now in June, the month of May was Foster Care Awareness Month. One great way to support foster children and families in our community, is to volunteer your time with the Guardian ad Litem program. If you don’t have time for volunteering right now, another great way to help is to donate your gently used baby and kids’ items to organizations like Speak Up for Kids or Place of Hope, whose mission it is to provide for the needs of local children in Palm Beach County.
A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is a volunteer who is appointed by the court, to advocate for the needs of children in the dependency system, which is the process families go through after suffering abuse or neglect. In order to volunteer, you must be 21 years old, and attend a training that is paid for by the program. Next, you are responsible to visit the child or children on your case at least once a month, to attend court hearings about once every six months, and to submit a report to the court based on your observations.
The Guardian ad Litem program is part of a larger, nationwide system called the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program (CASA). It is made up of staff members and trained volunteers. In Florida, it is called Guardian ad Litem, and is part of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit here in Palm Beach County.
Beyond volunteering, there are many ways to help local children:
Place of Hope is a nonprofit organization that provides faith-based, family style foster care and other services for children and young people in the community, as well as their families. It has made a huge impact in our community, by providing services for over 11,000 children, youth, and families, including caring for over 340 children and youth daily, and finding homes for over 250 young men and women who would otherwise be homeless. (Source: Place of Hope 2018 Impact Statement).
You can donate baby and children’s clothing, toys, and furniture and larger items like cribs, to Place of Hope or their charity store, called Treasures for Hope.
Speak Up for Kids is a nonprofit organization that supports the work of the Guardian ad Litem program. They accept donations of clothing and toys, and many GAL volunteers use this as a resource for the children on their cases. According to their website:
“Children with a GAL Child Advocate are…
TWICE as likely to find a safe, permanent home
HALF as likely to re-enter foster care
MORE LIKELY to receive available therapeutic services
MORE ATTENTIVE and do better in school
. . . than any child without a GAL Child Advocate Volunteer.”
Being involved with these organizations is a great way to be deeply connected to our community, by supporting local children.