Most who have spent any time here know I am a volunteer Guardian ad Litem. The State of Florida Guardian ad Litem Program is a network of professional staff and community advocates, partnering to provide a strong voice in court and positive systemic change on behalf of Florida’s abused and neglected children. There are 21 local Guardian ad Litem programs in 20 judicial circuits in Florida.
Why would you want do do something like that? Have you seen some of those people?
People, just like you and me and for some, just because of the luck of the draw, they ended up with a shit sandwich instead of filet mignon.
Were you abused or neglected?
Both my parents loved me very much, but that doesn’t mean I had it easy. My parents divorced in my early teens, my mother was an alcoholic, and my dad and I moved away from the town I grew up in when I was 15. My dad was deeply enmeshed in his mid-life crisis and I was pretty much left to fend for myself during my formative teen years. I was so ill prepared for the next step after high school, I joined the Army; which ended up being a godsend, but I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time.
Somehow, someway I was able to use not only the bad experiences in my life, but the good ones as well to shape who I have ultimately become. I am nowhere near perfect, but do know I have been blessed in many ways to the point I feel an obligation to give back. Through the GAL program, I felt this was where I could really roll up my sleeves and hopefully make a difference on a one on one basis.
How is that working out?
Well, I was told whatever victories you have will be small ones at best. Without going into too much detail all I will say it is very sad to see how broken down some of these kids are and the realization in all likelihood, they can only survive within the system; our tax dollars at work.
It definitely gives me a reality check and makes me extra thankful for what I do have and not to be too judgmental unless you’ve had the opportunity to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
How’s is working out? The jury is still out but I’d like to think I’m doing some good for somebody.
It can’t be that bad, can it?
Oh yeah, on so many levels.
Then just walk away
That would certainly be the easy thing to do, wouldn’t it?
I still have work to do
I have a current case where the children have been removed from the home and placed in foster care. The case is over one year old and I would like to say we are close to resolution, but I now have my doubts.
The parents say they want the children back and have somewhat complied with the case plan, but one of the spouses keeps going off the rails and it’s getting to the point where I am not sure if reunification will ever happen for them. And the state is not asking the parents to jump through hoops, all we want to see is the absolute bare minimum of compliance.
You make the call.
There are many people involved in this case including the case manager and therapist so I am not the hammer that goes in front of the judge with sole discretion on the outcome. But here are the choices we are faced with:
- The kids (there are five of them) are reunified with their parents and it rapidly goes back to the same situation that got the kids removed from the house in the first place. Personally, I have serious doubts if these parents can afford to properly feed or clothe these children, but like I said just the absolute bare minimum of care will get these kids back home.
No kidding, and that is probably the best of the two other choices.
- Choice two: foster care. Because of the behavioral issues these kids have I think it will be almost impossible to keep these kids together as a family unit. The low hanging fruit good kids will go first and the problem children are likely to get bounced from house to house.
Don’t let that happen.
I hear ya, I wish the parents would start parenting.
- Good ol’ choice three: Group foster care. If any of the kids become too rowdy and can’t exist in the traditional foster home setting, they will be transferred to a group home, and to be institutionalized at such a young age is a recipe for disaster. You have other problem children in the home that have been cast out too and not enough supervision in the home so the chances of a good outcome are slim indeed.
Can’t you fix it?
Yeah, let me wave my magic wand and make everybody behave the way they are supposed to.
What I can do is keep trying. If I was able to even reach one kid so he could use this experience to better himself, I would certainly consider that a win.
Other than run for the hills, if you were faced with this dilemma, what would your choice be?