For most of us, the holiday season is a time to be with family and friends, sharing traditions and celebrations. But for children in dependency, it is a stark reminder of what it means to not have a family.
In the 5th Judicial Circuit, which includes Marion, Lake, Hernando, Sumter and Citrus counties, more than 2,100 children are involved with our local dependency courts due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. The majority have been removed from their homes due to their parents’ abuse of drugs and alcohol. While most of these children reside with willing relatives, many are placed in foster or group homes, far away from things familiar. Far away from the usual and customary traditions the holiday season brings to most of us. Far away from the joy brought about by receiving a long anticipated gift.
The greatest gift these children can receive beyond December 25th is to either be reunified with their family or find their forever family through adoption. As a Volunteer Guardian ad Litem, we can help give a child a gift for life. As a trained volunteer, Guardians ad Litem are assigned to an abused or neglected child, whose case is involved with the courts. They are charged with advocating for the child so that he/she is safe and protected and given the chance to live in a stable, loving home.
Guardian ad Litem Volunteers make a profound difference in the life of a child. Research has shown that children with a GAL spend less time in out of home care, receive needed services to help them heal and are more likely to be adopted.
This Christmas season as you are with your family, remember those children without a family and give the gift that will last a lifetime – a voice for these children.
To find out more about volunteering as a Guardian ad Litem, visit our website at www.guardianadlitem.org