“I have been a volunteer advocate for six years. I became involved when one of my church
members (without my knowledge) told Holly Rodriguez, at the time the head of the local
Charlotte County GAL Program, that I would make a good Guardian ad Litem. She called me: I went in and talked to her and thought this might be an activity that would interest me. I took two weekends of training in Ft. Myers was given a case to handle and decided to give it a try.
I will always remember my first case. I had two brothers, ages seven and four. There were two different fathers who were not present. The boys had just been removed from their mother due to her drug abuse. When I first saw the boys, they had just been removed from their mother and were at the foster parents’ house. This was the foster parents first ever assignment. I will always remember those two boys standing together, holding hands.
There was continued drug abuse on the part of the mother and the boys were placed with their maternal grandmother. The foster parents had decided they would no longer continue in the foster parent program and guardianship moved to the grandmother. This woman had two other children, not of her family, so she was caring for four children.
Approximately nine months after the grandmother was granted guardianship, the mother surprised us and managed to defeat her drug abuse problem. She went to court and won back the custody of her children.
Shortly after this, the father of the older boy went to court and won custody of his son, thereby
splitting up the brothers. This man did love his son and I give him credit for his interest in his
son. He did, though, have legal problems and the mother was determined to rebuild her family. She returned to court and regained custody of the older boy. She now has custody of both boys. A local group gave the mother a scholarship that has allowed her to attend cosmetology school. She is currently studying for her certificate that will allow her to earn a living for her family.
I am intensely proud of this young woman who has turned her life around and is providing a good life for herself and her children. This case took 3 ½ years from beginning to end. The family has completed a six month review period by the court and is considered resolved.
I think the best way to consider the program is the way I did; take the training and try one case.
Use it to decide if you want to do it long-term. I have handled 25 -30 cases and have found the grandparents to be heroes in these stories. They provide the caring, love, and stability the children need so badly. They also are a good source for the volunteer as to how the parents of the children are really doing.
The system is not perfect, but it is pretty close to perfect.
Charlotte County, FL.
“I learned about the Guardian ad Litem program from a friend who told me about some of the children she had known through the program. At the same time there was an article in the newspaper that described the need for volunteers. I signed up for the required training, accepted a case and have been a GAL volunteer for six years.
One case involved a little baby boy. His mother had drug problems and was in and out of jail. The baby was in foster care. The father was in jail. The father was released, impregnated the mother, and was rearrested. He then was completely out of the picture.
The mother now had a baby boy and a baby girl, about a year apart, both in foster care. She entered drug programs but kept lapsing. The recommendation was made to terminate her parental rights. This seemed to get through to her. She could not afford a behavioral program, but about this time was offered a free behavioral program. She entered the program and did well. The program ended after six months due to lack of funds, but people kept helping the mother.
During this time the children were in foster homes, at times in two different foster homes.
The mother kept meeting the goals required for her to be reunified with her children, She had a history of having two children previously removed from her care. They are now teenagers and cared for by her parents. This time her determination to regain and care for her children was unwavering.
She has been drug free for over two years, and despite having a felony on her record, she managed to find a job.
The family is together. The mother demonstrates good parenting skills. The case took over three years. It feels very good to know that I have been involved in a matter that that has helped a mother get and stay off drugs and have her children returned to her.
Volunteers should know that you can get very involved in these cases. They do take lots of time and events such as the scheduling of court hearings are entirely out of your control.”
Punta Gorda, FL