Tampa, FL – You can make a lifelong difference for a child in the foster care system, and discover a volunteer experience you’ll love. Jerry Denney, Guardian ad Litem Volunteer Child Advocate for 3 years, said it was a little daunting “…learning how much need there is to help children in the dependency system. But it was also encouraging to see how I can have an impact by identifying services and the needs of a child. What some may consider minor changes can have a major effect on a child’s life. And the love and appreciation that comes with this experience is the most rewarding compensation one could ask for.”
Our volunteers range from college students to retirees and all ages between. They come from a variety of backgrounds and professions, but all seem to bring the same focus, helping children in need. Often the Guardian ad Litem is the one consistent adult figure in the child’s life.
“I know it sounds simple,” Volunteer Child Advocate Erin Mollura says, “but I love that I get to make a real, definable difference in the lives of the children I work with. I love knowing that even if they don’t remember my name or face when their case is closed, the work we ALL do as a team will mean something.” A Guardian ad Litem will visit with and get to know a child, research what services the child may need, and advocate for the child’s best interest with reports to the court. Statistics show children with a Guardian ad Litem Volunteer Child Advocate do better in school, receive more services, and spend less time in the system.
Hillsborough County has more children in the dependency system than any other county in the state. Thirteenth Circuit’s Guardian ad Litem Program Director Tabitha Lambert says the need for volunteers to advocate for these children is great. “Many of our volunteers have been with us for years,” says Lambert. “While this can be a challenging and sometimes frustrating experience, those who keep coming back for another child tell us they love what they’re doing and a child’s smile makes it all worthwhile.”
Information sessions are held every Thursday in various parts of the county to answer questions about the Guardian ad Litem Program and what volunteers do. For locations and times and to learn more, call (813) 272-5110 or visit www.galtampa.org.