Tampa, FL – “Whilst child abuse may be committed behind closed doors, it should never be swept under the carpet.” Constance Briscoe
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and everyone can help, even if it’s for one child at a time. Whether mentoring, advocating for child welfare policies changes, making donations to groups that serve children, or becoming a compassionate, consistent adult for an abused child as a Guardian ad Litem, you can make a difference.
Official reports state child abuse cases decreased during the spring of 2020, but the truth is the number of reports dropped because children were not being seen by teachers, daycare providers and others. With domestic violence, addiction, mental illness, and stress being prevalent reasons for child abuse and neglect, it’s certain the abuse was still there and perhaps even increased. The numbers of children being removed from their homes for safety is a persistent concern in the Tampa Bay area.
“These children are in the child welfare system through no fault of their own,” says Tabitha Lambert, Guardian ad Litem 13th Circuit Director. “There are approximately 3,100 children in the foster care system just here in Hillsborough County, and about a third of those need a caring, trained adult to help them through a chaotic time. Our mission is to represent abused, abandoned and neglected children in dependency court. By the time we are involved in a case, it’s usually too late to prevent a child’s trauma. Prevention education can help keep children from coming into the system in the first place.”
Guardian ad Litem volunteers will get to know a child, research services they may need, and advocate for their best interest in court. Statistics show children with a volunteer child advocate do better in school, have less chance of becoming part of the juvenile justice system, and are four times more likely to find a permanent home than a child without.
According to Prevent Child Abuse America, most adults are willing to help an abused child, but aren’t certain what to do. Concern can be shown in numerous ways. Volunteer with groups supporting these children, serve on a committee or writing your elected officials about policy changes. And if you don’t have the time to volunteer, donate to organizations and events creating awareness of child abuse.
Lasting change comes from taking action. We are deeply grateful for our current and past certified Guardian ad Litem volunteers and to our community partners and donors to Voices for Children, our non-profit partner that provides for our children in many ways. But more children need your help.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities and our program, visit www.galtampa.org or call 813-272-5110. Information sessions are available via phone.