This father's day I want to share a letter written to the newspaper from one of our volunteers from Mt. Dora. Thank you Mr. Deschenes.
It Takes a Big Guy to be a GAL
Fathers' Day is upon us and like Mothers' Day, it brings to mind the importance of parents and especially fathers and fathering.
I'm fortunate to be a Father, Grandfather and no less important, a Guardian ad Litem who advocates for and befriends children who have been removed from their parents due to abuse, neglect or abandonment.
Imagine the feelings of a child who has lost his or her parents because of court action. They ask, "Why are Mommy and Daddy not here?" or "Why did Daddy hurt Mommy and go to jail?" and, "When can I go home again?"
The absence of Fathers is a major contributor to poverty in single parent households and poverty has been directly linked to an increased incidence of child maltreatment. While this is absolutely tragic, what is equally devastating is the fact these boys and girls are growing up with no positive male role models. They have no one to show them how a gentlemen responds to frustration and anger or displays love and affection. They haven't experienced a dependable man, one who keeps his word, shows up when he says he will and takes pride in cuddling his baby, shopping with his daughter or attending his son's baseball game.
As Guardians ad Litem, we advocate for the children assigned to us. We make recommendations to the court presiding over their cases. We visit them in their foster homes and group homes. We go to their schools, arrange counseling and tutoring as needed, and seize each and every opportunity to praise their achievements and successes. We're there when we're needed most.
A Guardian ad Litem cannot and is not intended to replace a parent. We're there to make sure "our" children are safe and protected and either reunited with their parents or provided a stable, loving home.
Being a Guardian ad Litem is kind of like being a parent. It's hard, time-consuming and probably one of the most important things we'll ever do. It's also one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had.
For more information about the Guardian ad Litem Program and how to apply to join the next training class, contact Diana Hollwedel at 352-812-06971 or email her at Diana.Hollwedel@gal.fl.gov or visit www.guardianadlitem5.org.
Mt. Dora, Florida