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Rotary Happenings: Wendling’s presentation about neglected children heard by Rotary

By Staff | Mar 16, 2016

The Sanibel-Captiva Rotary’s guest speaker was Roxanne Wendling, Director of the Guardian ad Litem Foundation for the 20th Judicial Circuit of Florida, a non-profit agency advocating for abused, neglected, and abandoned children in Lee, Glades, Hendry, Charlotte and Collier Counties on March 4.

Although Wendling only became the Director of GALF nine-months ago, she has hit the ground running. As the Director of this program, part of her responsibilities lies in bringing awareness to the public about Guardian ad Litem/Voices for Kids and fundraising activities to support their mission.

Guardian ad Litem/Voices for Kids provides a safety net and protection for children that have been neglected, abused, or abandoned by their caretakers and are part of the dependency court system.

The focus of this system provides services from the court and monitoring of the whole family situation by the Department of Children and Families and Children’s Network of Southwest Florida.

In these situations a Guardian ad Litem may be appointed by the Court as an advocate exclusively for the best interest of the child.

Children in these situations are matched to a trained GAL volunteer advocate certified by the court to serve this purpose working with a GAL Attorney and Case Supervisor to represent children until a safe and permanent home can be achieved.

Potential volunteer Guardian ad Litem volunteers are interviewed regarding their interest in the program, must provide references, and agree to background checks before they undergo the GAL 30-hour training-program.

Volunteers then are assigned a GAL trainer, observes the trainer on home visits, and are familiarized to other GAL procedures.

Volunteer advocates monitor the progress of the case until a safe permanent home is achieved; visit the child at least once a month to be sure he/she is safe, gathers case information through face-to face interviews, record reviews, and observations of family interactions, living conditions, etc.; prepares written court reports with recommendations, explores all alternatives available to the child, submits monthly documentation to GAL program, attends all court hearing and meetings, assist in the implementation of any plans prescribed by the courts; and collects information from key people in the child’s life, e.g., extended family, caregivers, teachers, etc.. to help guide recommendations.

GAL volunteers may access financial assistance and resources on behalf of the child not provided by any other source.

The goal of GAL volunteers is to provide a consistent responsible adult in the lives of these children, finding the services that will stabilized the children?s lives, work toward less time in foster care, overseeing educational opportunities, finding a safe permanent home with the possibility of reunification of family.

At this time, there are 1,744 recorded children within the 20th Circuit Court in need of the Guardian ad Litem services.

Only 607 children are assigned a Guardian ad Litem in the District. You do the math.

By my calculations, this program still needs 1,137 Guardian ad Litem volunteers. So think about it.

If you would like to find out more about this vital program, a program that means so much in the lives of children with no voice for themselves, check out the web-sites of Guardian ad Litem/Voices for Kids if Southwest Florida.

Although this program is mandated by the government, it is not fully funded by the government. The need for fundraising to carry out this mandate is squarely placed on the board shoulders of the Guardian ad Litem Foundation.

To make financial donations, check out their web site.

The Sanibel-Captiva Rotary meets 7:00 a.m., Friday mornings at the Dunes Golf & Tennis Club, Sanibel. Guests are always welcomed.