TAVARES — The 5th Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program is seeking volunteers to become advocates for abused, neglected or abandoned children whose cases are now part of a dependency court proceeding.
“There are 1,754 children involved with our circuit courts, with 471 children here in Lake County,” said Marcia Hilty, circuit director, Guardian ad Litem Program, 5th Judicial Circuit. “The program, aided by volunteers, helps ensure children are safe and that they are provided the services necessary to overcome their circumstances.”
Appointed by the judge, the volunteer works as part of a team with a volunteer supervisor and program attorney; becoming familiar with the child and the child’s case in order to make recommendations to the court to help ensure a safe, caring, stable and permanent environment for that child. Cases usually last 10 to 12 months, and volunteers typically donate 5 to 10 hours a month.
“These children need someone who will speak up for them because most of the children assigned to us are below eight years of age,” said Hilty. “Volunteers of the program become active participants who make profound changes that make a tremendous lasting difference in the lives of these children.”
The next four-day GAL volunteer pre-service training will begin Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 9 a.m., at the University of Florida Extension Agricultural Center, 1951 Woodlea Rd., Tavares. Persons interested in volunteering should call Robert Seitz at 352-274-5231. Those interested in volunteering, but are unable to attend the training can also participate in a self-guided training session.
For more information about the Guardian ad Litem program, call Lynn Sennett, 352-274-5231, email Lynn.Sennett@gal.fl.gov or visit the website at www.GuardianadLitem.org.