Florida’s Guardian Ad Litem program got a boost in this year’s legislative session. Volunteers are working to raise awareness and support for the program.
Navigating the legal system can be daunting in any circumstance. But for minors, it can be particularly difficult. Deborah Moore explains this is where guardians come in.
“The judges appoint us when that case first comes into the system and we are there just to look at what is in the child’s best interest and to stand up for those interests and make sure their needs are met,” she says.
Moore is the Guardian Ad Litem director for Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit. The program focuses on dependency court which handle abused and neglected children.
This session, Moore explains, the state legislature gave judges more latitude to rely on the child’s best interest standard.
“That’s so important because previously a parent—even if it had committed grievous abuse—could make the recommendation about where a child should be placed in their permanent home,” Moore says.
Omega Wynn is the president of the Child Advocates Two board—a volunteer organization that supports the ad litem program.
“As I got to learn more and to put my eyes on it,” Wynn says, “it became more and more a part of me where I could help provide means for children who did not have, or had very little.”
“And as you see it,” he goes on, “it becomes a part of you and you just can’t do nothing but try to make a difference.”
Kristine Lamont sits on the board with Wynn and she’s leading their April Cupcakes and Cookies for Kids fundraiser. She says working in the guardianship system helps provide some measure of stability for the children who need it most.
“I hate to see kids that are missing out on opportunities—on the safety and security of a family,” Lamont says. “For them to know somebody cares about them, you know we all want that one person. And if a kid is in the system through abuse or neglect they may not think they have that person.”
The governor approved the new legislation earlier this week. The law takes effect in July.