Insider News for the
6th Circuit
Guardian ad Litem
October 2017
In This Issue
Save These Dates!
Brown Bag Lunches

Friday November 17
11:30 AM 
Icot Office

New Port  Richey
Friday November 17
12:00 PM
NPR office 
8324 Corporate Way

Dade City
Friday Friday November 10
Dade City Office

Education Alternatives
What are the options?
Will my child benefit?
Where do I get the information to have a discussion with a teen who is struggling in high school?

Panel from 
* Pace Center for Girls
* AMIkids
* Job Corps
Tuesday, November 7th
6:00 to 8:00 PM
ICOT Office
14102 58th Street N, Clearwater

On line Trainings

Florida GAL website:
State GAL website training-advcocacy-resources
Just in Time Foster Parent Trainings:
Just In Time Trainings
Florida Center for Child's Welfare:

Stars of the Month 


Kedeja Nottingham
Sheila Slater
Caroline Neidert
Angelynn Taylor
Peggy Miller
Karyn Moses
Anna Marie McGuire.

Special Thanks to 

All our volunteers and hard working staff who collaborate to provide a strong advocacy team for "our kids".   

GALP Logo 6th Centered  
Welcome New GALs

Adams, Colleen 
Falzone, Brandi 
Holland, Rosslyn 
Hudgell, Kimberly
Lange, Katherine 
LeVea, Joan 
McCarty, Constance 
Ronzo, Elizabeth 
Weiss, Rebecca 

September Pinellas Graduates!

Great Peeps to Tweet! 

Dennis Fagan for all of his expert testimony at trial.
Nancy Blount - great job, well done when your case was reviewed!
Paul Alcocer who has worked with one case, closed, reopened, TPR, then another child is born and Paul took on that case as well, sibling to his first child. Another TPR and a case review! Great Job Paul!
Nita Leanza for stepping in at the last minute to cover a visit. 
Kay Brulo for her ongoing representation of children and her diligence in the educational setting!
Case Manager Sara Velez for her outstanding communication skills.  You are terrific!
Fran Abilock, you never give up! Great investigative skills Fran. 
Kerri Shaver whose case is going to close successful! Thank you!
Louise Miliotes who never hesitates when asked to cover visits. Thank you  Louise.
Case Manager Katie Madden for always providing updates on her cases. You are outstanding!
Ola Thomas, Case Manager Supervisor for her ongoing communication and great team direction as to her case managers.
Pam Pepperman - new GAL - time consuming case thanks for your amazing job meeting with parents, observing visits and gathering documentation!
Pam Wolfgang  for visiting on 2 cases and accepting a full case also!
Michele Regan - thanks for visiting whomever  is needed on short notice!
Lyn Lund for recruiting volunteers at Heritage Church with a foster parent.
From Karen thanks to Amanda Liddy and Carol Williams for helping recruitment and training in the Icot office. You both are awesome ladies and we appreciate you assisting with tasks no matter how great or small!
Donna Rasmussen for putting together the newsletter.
Mitch Aydlette- Mitch maintains contact with both the child, current caregivers and the parents and immediately addresses any needs or issues that may arise. If the caregivers or child are unable to contact the case manager, they know Mitch is a reliable contact.
Thank you GAL Mario Rendina for completing another case with the GAL Program.
Thanks to all the GALs who attended the Dade City in-service training about Methadone. It was an excellent turn out.
Lupe Mayorga for taking on another out of county case.
Tyler Ensingberger for taking his first out of county case.
Alex Regan for helping with out of county visits! Thank you Alex!
Greg Cardinal for returning back home and going strong on visiting children. Thank you Greg!
Kudos to Tracy Wilhelm, visiting GAL for a Wesley Chapel case; she visits, bakes cookies and is so wonderful with a 16 year old who needed someone to bond with!
Kudos to Jean McNary who although she suffered the death of two parents, kept right on working and being as pleasant as she always is. From the Assessment Team  in Pasco, Jean you are so appreciated.
Carolyn Adamski has been a strong advocate for the young children she represents. With a case manager who was not the most responsive, Carolyn worked to get visitation with mom approved and scheduled. The boys told their GAL they missed their mommy and when their behavior started to deteriorate, Carolyn knew she needed to take action. Kudos Carolyn!  
Kudos to Mary McMannis on a wonderful job that she has done on her case. 
To Roz Fenton to taking on visiting a child in need. To Jody for taking on a case not only for me, but for taking case from another CAM. 
Thanks Peg Landers from Pinellas for helping with visiting on one of my cases. 
Kudos to John and Ardy for working so well on their cases and doing a fantastic job.

Street Beat

Alex Regan (top) and Alyssa Bombard  (bottom) help recruit for GAL in West Pasco!

West Pasco volunteers rocking the Rock Painting!

 October Anniversaries

Sue Neville 

Mario Rendina

Terry Stoermer
James Blaney

Jane Greene

Patricia Smith
Catie Rogers

Nine Years
Gina Thiemann
Anna Hayes
Linda Grandinetti

Eight Years
Karen Secor
Makitia Dillard
Deborah Warren
Cynthia Faulhaber
Kathi Konkle
Mary Kolts

Six Years
Margaret Lambis
Paul Lambis

Five Years
Polly Eskew
Lupe Mayorga
William (Bill) Smith
Carolyn McNulty
Kim Melick
Doug Dupuis
Nancy Dupuis
Linda Poulette

Four Years
Viktorya Johnson, Esq
Polly Leibe
Marie Davis
Nick Griffin
Norman Andina

Three Years
Kelly McCan
Kristi Bledsoe
Mitchell Aydlette
Peggy Chase
Russell McLeod
Michelle Gibson
Robert Hale
Lorna Cook
Jennifer Kilmurray

Shannon Mills
Juanita Sparks
Michael Borota
Suzanne Lanza
Catherine Beardsley
Yvonne Crandall
Lisa Palladino-Holland
Sarah Wilkons
Pascal Fruge
Carol Schmidt
Marie Bunkley
Lydia Santana
Aleacia Guy
Beverely Garofalo
Karen Karinja
Daphane Days
Christins Malpartida
Kate Carter

Teresa Hair, Esq
Claire Brueck
Judith Ormsby
Caroline Svatek
Michele Frost
Jennifer Hutchins
Dale Lindberg
Peggy Paulson
Charlene Tomas
Steve Burns
Shannon Piloto
Jennnifer Boggess
Charles Derexson
Kermit Dunn
Cynthia Webb
Jay Dusek
Karen Crowe
Rosanne Tomaselli
Mary Field
Melissa Hale

_________ _________


Commitment to Children- The children for whom we advocate are our most important priority.

Communication Built on Trust- The Program has a culture of open communication, active listening, teamwork, and regard for the views of others. This includes being honest and straightforward with the children we represent in keeping with their level of age and maturity.

Collective Empowerment
Each circuit has the authority and responsibility to make and implement the best decisions to meet the children's needs. This empowerment must be passed on to volunteers, staff and attorneys.

Collaboration- The Program proactively seeks to develop relationships that promote the well-being of the whole child.

Courtesy- The Program values all who engage in this challenging work and ensures they are treated with respect and dignity.

Director's Directions
Mariela Ollsen,
Circuit Director      

"Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world...would do this, it would change the earth."    William Faulkner

I am pleased to share that our  Sixth Circuit Pasco team won the Team Advocacy Award from the State of Florida Guardian ad Litem Program. Congratulations to Vince Rieger ( volunteer), Pat Smith (volunteer), Pam Peterson ( Child Advocacy Manager), and Kari Marsland-Petit ( Senior Best Interest Attorney). The special announcement noted that  team advocay for the child's best interst, is the hallmark of the GAL Program.  Our team demonstrated why this collaboration is so important for children.  Pat and Pam were assigned a difficult and unique case where the children had been in and out of the system for years and were particularly traumatized. They realized the children could benefit from some additional support and recruited Vince who is known for his ability to develop a rapport with children who are in tough cases. The case had a long history, and when the Program learned the plan was to try "more of the same", the  GAL Team worked tirelessely to demonstrate the children needed a better solution and to make it happen.  Kari filed a TPR Petition and was ultimately able to persuade the Department to join the TPR.  Still focused on the children, the team advocated for and obtained surrenders from the parents and the children did not have to testify and suffer through a prolonged termination of parental rights process. By seeing the case through the eyes of the child, understanding the dynamics of their situation, and employing strong legal advocacy, this team brought these children from a dark reality to a brighter future. Thank you to Vince, Pat, Pam and Kari for combining all your unique talents to achieve one mission.  
From Left to Right:  CAM Pam Peterson, Senior BIA Kari Marsland-Petit, Volunteer Team Leader/Master Volunteer Pat Smith, Master Volunteer Vince Rieger 

Sixth Circuit Vital Statistics:
As of October 2017

Children in Dependency   
2769 (>)
Of those without a GAL
1103 ( >)
Case Volunteers
785 (<)
Transportation Approved Volunteers
       257 ( >) 
GAL Best Practices
Parent/Child Visits: GALS be sure to observe the interaction between
parent(s) and child (ren) and send your report promptly to your CAM.
Sometimes it is necessary to inquire as to dates and times when these visits
will occur. 
Available Items: GALS please feel free to stop by our ICOT office, Justice Center, or any of the Pasco offices,  if you would like to pick up some items to take to your child such as wooden toy cars, bears in a bag or  books.  Check in with your CAM on what is available in each location.
Parents: GALS please always check to be sure that your parents have
referrals and are able to move forward and make appointments to work on
their case plan tasks. These referrals are not "forever referrals". They do
expire so be sure to let the parents know that appointments need to be
made in a timely fashion.
Vacation/Out of Town: GALS if you are going on vacation or if you will be
out of town, or not available for a period of time, please be sure to let your
CAM know so that information can be calendared in the even that there is a
court date or if a visit needs to be made to your children.

Thank you GALS!
Legal Forum
Guardian ad Litem Tips for Providing Effective Testimony

Guardian ad Litem volunteers and staff are frequently called to testify at hearings and trials. The following are some tips to assist you when providing the court with testimony to support our position for what is in the children's best interests.

1. Listen to the question and only answer the question that is asked.   Never volunteer information. This includes to the Guardian ad Litem Best Interest Attorney, but it also includes to the parents' and State Attorney. It is the other lawyers' roles to try and obtain information. The more information you give, the more you increase the likelihood that you give information that could affect the outcome in a case in a way that you may not like. In addition, you "open the door" to longer cross examination if you volunteer information to the Best Interest Attorney. Brief and concise answers are best. If the Best Interest 
Attorney wants more information from you, that attorney will ask follow up questions to your brief response.

2. If you don't know the answer, "I don't know" is a perfectly good answer.
Never guess, never speculate, and never go on a gut feeling. Your job as a fact witness is to testify based on your personal knowledge. That means something that you have direct firsthand knowledge about the question being asked.

3. If you don't understand a question, ask for the questioner to rephrase it.
If asked a question at a hearing or in trial, and you provide an answer, it is presumed you understood the question. If you are confused in any way about what is being asked, or if you did not hear the entire question, asking that the question be rephrased (or repeated) is perfectly acceptable to do as a witness.

4. Never interrupt the question, and don't be in a hurry to answer.
Always allow the person asking the question to finish asking the question completely before giving an answer. There is also no problem in taking your time before answering. Think through your answer. In addition, if there is an objection by counsel, do not provide any answer until the judge rules on that objection.

5. Listen to your attorney. This obviously applies during your attorney's questioning, but it also applies during another attorney's questioning of you. During any questioning, you cannot confer with the Guardian ad Litem Best Interest Attorney before answering. However, your attorney may object to a question and in that objection, information may be gleaned that could be helpful in fully understanding the question.

6. Stay calm. Often times a witness is nervous to testify at a trial or hearing. And opposing counsel may ask questions that seem to play on a witnesses' potential nervousness. Take a moment and breathe. Don't let an opposing counsel's attempted theatrics affect you. If you feel like things are going bad, don't worry about it. They are probably not as bad as you think. In addition, there is nothing to be accomplished by becoming nervous or upset.

7. Always tell the truth. You are testifying under oath. Any attempt at exaggerating, misrepresenting, or stating things that are not true can, and likely will, affect credibility.

8. Be proud of your role! The Guardian ad Litem is the only party in court that is truly there to represent the best interest of a child. That is an awesome thing! Very often, the Guardian ad Litem volunteer is the only person who has been by that child's side through the entire dependency case. Take pride in the fact that you are there to be that child's voice. Although hearings may not always have the results that we wanted, the child knows that their voice is important and you are providing that to the court. At the end of the day, that fact alone will mean something to that child regardless of the results of the hearing.

submitted by,
Dean Zona, Esquire
Senior Child's Best Interest Attorney
New Port Richey Office

Recruitment Corner
Last month Larnelle and I met with the new director of RSVP and learned about some great benefits to our volunteers with the RSVP Program. Here is some information that some of you may already qualify for:

Lead With Experience!
The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program is one of the largest volunteer networks in the nation for people 55 and over. You can use the skills and talents you've learned over the years, or develop new ones while serving in a variety of volunteer activities within your community. Already volunteering? Enjoy some of the many incentives that come along with being a part of RSVP, including: mileage reimbursement, annual recognition events, accidental insurance, personal liability insurance, and excess automobile liability insurance. Not to mention the ability to serve alongside your peers while making a difference in the lives of those in need! Contact Katie Sisson at 727-823-4101, Ext. 126, or ksisson@poc-inc.org to sign up today!

Our last classes of the year are going on right now and we have 33 in Pinellas and 13 in Pasco who are enrolled in the last training of the year. Our next training in Pinellas will be on Saturdays, January 20, 27th and February 3rd from 9AM-4PM and in Pasco from January 16th-February 1st on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from 6-9PM. We are working on a holiday recruitment campaign and we hope that it will pay off when it comes time for our January classes.

We are also asking that our current volunteers help us in recruitment by thinking of any groups or organization you may belong to or know of where we can speak about the need for volunteers. One of the most pressing needs we have is for male volunteers and especially African American males as we seek to recruit volunteers as diverse as the children we serve. As always, please contact Karen Malo at karen.malo@gal.fl.gov 727-464-6147 in Pinellas or Larnelle Scott at Larnelle.scott@gal.fl.gov 727- 484-3059 x3768 in Pasco if you would like to arrange a guest speaker or if you know anyone who might be a great GAL!

Karen Malo
6th Circuit Community Outreach Coordinator
Pasco GAL of the Month   
Carolyn Touchton      
Carolyn Touchton has been a volunteer with the Guardian Ad Litem  Program since May 2013. Since that time she has been an advocate in about 22 cases or so. She  is always ready for the next task, goes above and beyond, and is currently a Master Guardian.  She enjoys helping new Guardians, our CAMs, attorneys, and does initial assessments from time  to time as well. Carolyn has even volunteered to be a speaker with our GAL recruiter and talk  about her experience as a Guardian. Even though her new CAM is new to the program, she has  already seen the love and care Carolyn has with all of her cases and with the people around her!  Thank you, Carolyn, for your great heart & for being part of my Team!

Alexandra Regan
Child Advocacy Manager  

Pinellas GAL of the Month
Dawn Schwirtz

It's hard to believe Dawn has only been a Guardian ad Litem for a little over a year and a half. Wow, she is incredible and I am proud of her so many accomplishments that reflects so positively on our program. To date she has represented 8 children in five different cases. She always goes above and beyond and leaves no stone unturned in knowing the entire picture for each of her children. I depend on Dawn enormously. Her reports and notes provide the details that make me feel that not only do I know the facts but also I learn the dynamics of the family. Dawn does not miss a hearing or staffing. She maintains contact with the parents and is there to provide them with support to reach their goal. Her communication skills are excellent which is critical in handling sensitive situations.

While Dawn has experienced many successes, one that illustrates her dedication and thoroughness comes to mind. Dawn was able to stop a teen from leaving the state for human trafficking. Dawn worked incredibly close with the case manager with a teen that did not want help and was on the run for 45 days. Through Dawn's investigative skills and diligence she determined the exact bus that the teen was taking to leave Florida for Texas. She alerted the case manager and together the teen was stopped at the bus station by law enforcement (in another county) and returned to Pinellas County. The teen was with her friend and an unknown male who she would not identify.

Dawn is a mother and proud grandmother. Dawn loves to travel. She is a retired Pharmacist, which has also been great in evaluating medications. I know that she became a Guardian ad Litem to make a difference in children's lives. She has made a huge one that she should be proud. Being a Guardian ad Litem has definitely kept her busy during her retirement years. Dawn, I can't thank you enough. We are honored to have you in the Guardian ad Litem Program.

Haron Housman
Child Advocacy Manager

Self Care Tips              yoga_graphic.jpg

One of the ways I have found to help me when I need to take care of myself is Yoga. Ironically the times when I most need it are the times I am most pressed for time and I don't have the time to go to the classes scheduled at my gym. So I wanted to share something I found online while looking for some options. I went on my old pal Google and typed in free yoga classes online and came across one in particular that I have started using. It is called Yoga With Adriene and there are classes that range anywhere from a few minutes to an hour depending on how much time you have or want to spend getting you OHM on and the best part is it is free. There are different classes for different needs such as anxiety or morning stretches as well as Yoga for Beginners. If you are new to yoga all you need is a cell phone or computer with access to the internet, a mat or a soft surface. Obviously if you have health issues or injuries you will want to check with your doctor first but the great thing about yoga is that you can go at your own pace and never do anything that does not feel right. Many of the routines involve gentle stretching and breathing exercises you can incorporate into a daily routine and if you're like me, having someone guide you through is a great way to stay focused! There are even some with meditation if you want to try them. So here is the link if you are feeling adventurous and ready add something new to your Self Care routine:

If you do end up trying this please let me know what you thought of it or if you have a self care tip to share with us here in the GAL community, feel free to drop me a line at karen.malo@gal.fl.gov

Karen Malo
Pinellas Community Outreach Coordinator

Poet's Corner

"The only way to predict the future is to create it"
So stated Abe Lincoln, and so stated with much grit.

Our GALS do just that as they represent each child.
With visits, outings, in Court with reports that are filed.

Thank you GALS; you have perhaps no idea right now.
Your impact on children is great; this we can vow.

For so many, GALS are the future; GALS are the rock.
You are building futures, with every tick of the clock!

Submitted by Diana Aboussir, Child Advocacy Manager

Daniella,  Hugo and Melida ( L to R) are ready for  "GAL-O-Ween"

For the Children

Sea Life Learn Day for GAL Kids
Do you have a GAL child/ren who is interested in sea life? Come to this interactive event at 10:00am on Saturday, November 4th, where children can learn more about the sea and the incredibly cool creatures that call it home. There will be time to explore the aquariums as well as a presentation with time for questions. If you haven't been to Sea Life Fish & Aquariums it is a cool place.  The address is
5250 34th St N
St. Petersburg FL, 33714
To learn more and register go to

Eckerd Thanks GAL Volunteers

Each month, each of the case management agencies honor and thank a GAL Volunteer or Staff for their hard work and partnership to support children and families.  For October, Directions for Living honors:
Tammy Miller
Directions reports that Tammy is amazing. She is involved in her cases. She makes the case managers job easier. She makes sure all of her kids needs are met. She is excellent with communication.
Case Managers of the Month

Each month we honor and thank a case manager from each county, in the spirit of partnership and appreciation for their dedication. 
This month we thank from Youth and Family Alternatives:
Daniel Rumeau-Case manager supervisor of the month.
Thanks Daniel for you service!