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E-Advocator 
 Insider News for the 
Sixth Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program   
                                                                      
  
Fall 2020
In This Issue
Save These Dates!

Pinellas Virtual BBL
Friday November 20
11:30 AM-1:00 PM
Information Here

Pasco  
West Pasco Virtual BBL
Discussion with Charlie Solano and Salina Cummings, Esq.
Friday November 20
12:00-1:00 PM
Information Here

Watch for announcements from your CAM or GALP office for virtual trainings and brown bag luncDhes or view the on line event calendar. Register using the events calendar under the Pinellas tab here.
Register for  Pasco here

July Stars 
Andrea Truslow
  Vicki Reuter   
 Mary Melissa Lane  
Debbie Parks  
 Elizabeth Ehrhard  
Jean Cooley  
Linda Zolper 
 Stana Novak 
 Karen Levine 
Nancy Sanders
  Dana Noble     
   

August Stars
Les Davis 
Natasha Gallaty 
Beth Ronzo 
Julia Kreiner 
Amber Lewis 
Kelsey Brissenden 
Lisa Phillips 
Robin Davidov 
Wanda Hardin
Susan Johnson 
Vince Rieger
Linda Berry
Bonnie Rogers
Deanna Bradley

September Stars
Shannon Farrell 
Valerie Kaye 
Dave Elmer 
Mary Lane 
William Whitworth 
Corey Sterman 
 Ava Lawrence 
Tony Valente 
Deborah Conflenti 
Judy Fagan 
Letty Ann Felts 
Bonnie Rogers 


October Stars
Kim Lisle
Brittany Brochard
Deeanna Bradley 
 
Great Peeps To Tweet
 
Congratulations to Fran Abilock who was contacted by a young man she represented  six years ago!  She was his GAL in very challenging case.  He wanted to invite her to his wedding, marrying his long time girlfriend.  She was honored to attend the special event at the Botanical Gardens in Largo in August.  She was able to catch up on how he and his siblings are doing. 

A special thank you to Rita Yezzi for all of hard work on a very challenging case in Pinellas.  She had gone above and beyond in her advocacy for these brothers. 

Thanks to Peggy Mitchell  for all of her amazing work on a very difficult and  complex case.  Her advocacy for the children has made a big difference in this case. 

A special kudos from Carmen to Lili Taskin who always displays a calm and peaceful demeanor.  Lili had a difficult case with siblings placed in different foster homes.  She advocated to ensure they had visits together.  Late in the case, the grandmother decided to take all five children.  Lili did an amazing job ( as she always does)  advocating for the best interest of the children. 
   
Thanks to Barbara Grano, Linda Zolper, Irene Pierpont, Tanya Hawkins, Caroline Svatek, Sarah Bailie, Wanda Hardin, Diane Pearson and Julie Mahr for being rock stars and taking on extra cases to help out our team. You guys are amazing and Jen Morrison could not do this without you! 

Kudos from Gaye Lene Hasche to Wiliam Whitworth.  Although relatively new as a GAL, he successfully closed a case in reunification and has taken on two more cases! He is a diligent advocate on behalf of his GAL kids! Kuodos to Chris Arestides for consistently following through on every aspect of her case. Kudos to Molly VerVelde who is a great advocate for her GAL kids and is able to see the big picture of the family dynamic. Thanks to Sue Roseberry  who is excellent at handling the details of her case. Thank you to Ivonne Pontius  who  was able to help facilitate moving the siblings into one home. 

Kudos from Rebecca Dilley to Amanda Liddy who testified in a trial and the Judge was very impressed. He said that we are lucky enough to have dedicated volunteer guardians ad litem in this county but in particular, Amanda stood out.  
 
Welcome New Certified Volunteers

Shayla Ahmed
Shashonee Arrington
Charles Augello 
Shareen Barnes
Fredrick Becker
Andre Belloise
Yolanda Belloise
Christina Beresford
Jennifer Berry
Danielle Bourne
Stacy Boyles
Margaret Burke
Stephanie Camera
Leah Candler
Janna Cleague
Breauna Cremona
Kelly Dapprich
Brian Davison
Thomas DAnnunzio
Nicole DiMonda 
Kathleen Everett
Katlynne Fehr
Richard Feinberg
Teri Flynn
Clive Gavin 
Haston Gerencir
Samantha Gerencir
Sandra Gerrish 
Melanie Grillone
Lynn Grillone
Lynn Gruber
Munire Gurtunca
Sandra Holcomb
Housman, Haron
Ashley Hurley
Marsha Jenkin
Janice Kalman
Valerie Kaye
Elaina Kolioradakis
Wes LaRue
Katherine Leandri
Kimberly Leary
Jacquelyn Mallozzi
Linda Marcelli
Armandina (Dina) May
Chelsea McQuinn
Paige Michaelins
Leslie Morris
Piper Mulford
Kara Pridgen-Owen
Julia Phillips
Crystal Quinn
Antonio Quinones
Robin Schroeder
Devon Shank
Catherine Bare Sanchez 
Shelia Slater
  Kenneth Smith
Jenna Staab
Heidi Stiller 
Maureen Twomey
Pamela Volchko
Joleen Walker
Michelle Wells
Jamal Williams
Monica Williams
Sue Yessman

 July/Aug/Sept
Anniversaries  

Twenty Two Years
Fran Abilock

Sixteen Years
Kenneth Bernard

Fifteen Years
John Zucker

Thirteen Years
Heidi Joswig
David Elmer
 Vicki Reuter
Karen Amundrud
Cowanna Johnson 

Twelve Years
Patricia Abby Nusbaum
Sandra Ambush
Christy Nicholson 

Eleven Years
Cheryl Brennan
 Peter Throdahl
Dorothy Purcell
Renee Viverito 

Ten Years
 Cheryl Maximo
 Susan Mueller
 Renee Ingrassia
 
Nine Years
Jack Callahan, Esq.
 Travis Hadwin
Samuel Lima
 Fran Scerbo
 Robert Mussoni
 Jean McNary 
 Linda Meckes
Robert Hightower
 Paul Mathis

Eight Years
Donna Rose Esq.
Roz Fenton 
 Jeana Robinson
Elizabeth Sutherland
George Hunt

Seven Years
Monika Stephan
Horowitz, Richard
Kathy Samlick
Hoagland, Jamie Hoagland
Denise Kirschbaum

Six Years
William Cooley
 Leann Kahl
David Neiser, Esq.
Lauren Ahern
Molly Walker
Nilda Otero
Harmony Davis
Sheila Schultz
Maureen Johnson
Haig Pakhchanian
Joanne Power  

Five Years
Lesley Siemens 
Joetta Bauer
Sarah Swoch
Grant McKeel
Ethan Romans
Sherry Knitter
Valerie Tatarzewski
Carole Deerin
Marita Lynch
Marleen Struys  
Lyn Lund
Kathy Smith
 Nancy Walker

Four Years
John Long
Lizzie Long
Modupe Kuforiji
Karyn Moses
Kermit Thatcher
Mary Burnett
Nicole Scheman
Sharon Wilson
Melodie Menzer
Karen Ragsdale
Anna Marie Maguire
Magdalene Mahairas
Stania Novak
Robert Planinshek
Jeanette Siladie
Kenneth Yancey
Zabrinna Panesso
Stacey Badeaux 
  Michelle Clayton 
Misty Exelby 

Three Years 
Alice Delgardo
Elizabeth Ehrhard
Shelaine Gilliam
Madison Lovell
Chad Mello
Joan Murzin
Sonja Sullivan
Fred Twilla
Karen Twilla
Pamela Pepperman
Michele Regan
Jeanne M Morgan
Stephanie Addis
Tanya Hawkins
Natalie Zolper
Pauline Rohrmann
Robert Stults
Petya Getsova
Cynthia 'Cindy' Drake
Sue Anderson
Jack Davani
Wendy Hoy
Ciera Lipps 
Maria Rivera
Cynthia Byndas
Geri Cochran
Donna Holecek
Timothy Murzin
Linda Attardo
Pamela Wolfgang

Two Years  
Jacqueline Boyd
Caille Branscombe
Autumn Brown
Venessa Clark
Thomas 'Tom' Dailey
Rea Davis
Renee Donaldson
April Dupree
Leah Hayslett
Stafinia Koutsoumbaris
Abby Mayers
Nile Nickel
Dawn Rozzi
Julia Snell
Sandra Walling
Michael Walsh
Jacqueline Boyd
Caille Branscombe 
Robert Jones
Tawnee Walling
Kathryn Douglas
Valerie Gatlin
Shawn Imhoff-Vanover
Bonnie Sullivan
Sharon Roy
Michelle Libby
Kristi Blough
Alanah McGuire
Linda Sigmund Wong
Sarah Voisin
Nate Cocco
Robert Amon
Rachelle Myott
Rita Priest
Ali Rahnavard
Leah Weekes
Sandra Amon
David Carty
Anna Raffoul
Ava Lawrence
Donna Roberts
Jeanne Rutter
Roger Rutter
Kimberly Wagner
Michelle Schachter
Donna Johnson
Lori Gorski
Stephanie Santiago 

One Year 
Julie Anderson
Deanna Bradley
Davina Collins
Robert LaSala
Kathlene Lopez-Martin
Rachel Manzione
Phyllis Messier
Theresa Sommers
Kelly Tiberini
Peter Tiberini
Paiton Morrison
Arlyne Vrochidis
Geneva Waters
Maria Kinmonth
William Kinmonth
Winnie Sell
Samantha Lawrence
Patrice Brooks
Edward Marks
Amy Richman
Orli Shull
Mariah Miller
Bobby-Jo Woodward
Laura Shortway
Mark Weber
Sally Welsh
Jennifer Neiser
Rae Poritz
Barbara Rotunda
Esther Voliton
Paul Herzfeld
Jennifer King
Patricia Stills
Gregory Taylor
Christopher 'Blake' Holtzhower
Gretchen Stanley
Michael Stanley
Julie Vanderlinde
Paula Millen
Julia Myers
Tim Pickens
Peggy Schiavone
Wanda Hardin
David Johnson
Lora Moustopoulos
Deborah Ratajczak
Deborah Horne
Catherine Poviones
Marcy Haenig
Andrea Ruosi
   Jacqueline Doeg    

Director's Directions
Mariela Ollsen, Esq.
Circuit Director    
"The greatest discovery of all time is that a person 
  can change his future by merely changing his attitude." 
 Oprah Winfrey


I hope that everyone is feeling well and staying safe.  Many of you have asked when Court is resuming in person hearings.  As of right now, the only hearings conducted in person are Termination of Parental Rights      ( TPR) trials.  Not every TPR trial will be in person, so speak to your Program Attorney and they will work with you on any concerns.  Most witnesses are still appearing by Zoom.  Many of you have also noticed that all of our hearings are now occurring via Zoom. For some, I understand the technology is new and can be a challenge.  A few important reminders so the hearing proceeds smoothly.  Please ensure that you know how to connect your audio and how to mute/unmute when necessary.   As always, our staff is available to assist you if some additional assistance is needed.  

Thank you for your patience during these difficult times and your continued dedication to the kids in our system of care and the program.  Stay safe everyone! 
___________________________________________________________
Guardian ad Litem License Plate!
The State of Florida reveals an exciting new drivers' license plate that promotes the Guardian ad Litem Program. It is called "Heartfelt Child Advocacy" and resulted from the legislative sponsorship of Senator Aaron Bean and Representative James Grant. Information about the new plate and how to order yours is Here .
Sixth Circuit Vital Statistics:
As of  September 2020
 
Children in Dependency   
 3094 (<)

Of those without a GAL
1269 (<)
Case Volunteers   
960 (<)
      
Transportation Approved Volunteers
        303 (<)
 

Volunteer Child Advocate Best Practices

Communication - Maintain frequent and open communication with your CAM and Program Attorney.   Each of you bring a unique perspective to the GAL team and frequent communication will ensure that we provide the best advocacy for the child/ren we serve.  If  your CAM or Program Attorney is unavailable, anyone in the GAL program  will be happy to assist. 
Visits- Remember that we are still required to follow our visitation guidelines and many of our visits will still be virtual; however, that does not mean that we cannot have face-to-face visits with our child or if necessary visit the home of our child.   In order to do so, please reach out to your CAM for approval prior to completing a face- to -face  or in home visit for your child. Also, remember to get your notes in before the end of the month so that your CAM has the opportunity to review the status of the child, or if necessary, complete the visit on your behalf.  
Education- Now that school is back in session,  many schools have limited the people permitted on campus.  You should continue to  maintain contact with your child's teacher to ensure all of their educational needs are being met.  

For Volunteer Child Advocates needing in service hours, or for training on specific issues to enhance your knowledge and skills, use the Florida Guardian ad Litem,  I am for the Child Academy, a free collection of trainings and resources located here Conferences and other trainings are located here.
Legal Forum


A Look Inside AARC Decision Making *

Have you had a case where the choice of an adoptive placement presented challenging issues? If your answer is yes, you might be familiar with the term AARC. AARC stands for Adoption Applicant Review Committee. The Florida Administrative Code provides for an AARC consultation when an adoptive home study has been denied or when the adoption selection process presents other challenging issues. One challenging issue that necessitates an AARC meeting occurs when multiple families apply to adopt the same child.

When multiple families apply to adopt, a best interest standard will be applied in order to select a family. The committee must consider the following factors in determining the child's best interest when selecting the adoptive family: attachment, siblings, kinship, permanency, and post communication or contact.

1. Attachment. The committee will consider the quality and length of attachment to the current and potential caregiver.

2. Sibling consideration. The committee will determine whether a potential adoptive placement is willing to adopt all members of a sibling group.

3. Consideration is given to kinship as cultural values and traditions are more likely to be passed on by those who have a shared history. Additionally, consideration should be given to the quality of the relationship with a relative seeking to adopt.

4. Permanency. Consideration must be given to a potential adoptive parent's willingness to understand the adoptive child's needs as well as the prospective adoptive parent's understanding of the inherent challenges to parenting an adopted child.

5. Post communication or contact. Consideration is given as to whether the potential adoptive parent is willing and has the capacity to agree to post-adoption contact with siblings or significant adults when such contact is in the child's best interest.

Following the AARC meeting, the AARC chairperson will issue a written recommendation to the community-based care agency. The community-based agency will then either approve or reject the applicant in writing. If the applicant is rejected, written notification to the applicant must include the reason for rejection. The rejected applicant will have twenty-one days to request review of the agency's decision. A request for review will provide the applicant with an administrative hearing. Proceeding with the administrative hearing reviewing the applicant's denial will likely cause notable delay to the adoption of the child. If you have additional questions, please contact your Child Advocacy Manager or Program Attorney.

Kari Marsland-Pettit, Esquire
Senior Program Attorney
New Port Richey Office

*Originally published June 2017
Recruitment Corner  

Well, we are 7 months in. Yes, the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, perpetuates its ominous presence and persists in mandating that we live our daily lives in a novel, new way, relegating us in the Guardian ad Litem Program to work remotely. However, this deadly virus did not eliminate the abuse, abandonment or neglect of children in our circuit nor our need for volunteers. There are still nearly 1200 children in Pasco and Pinellas counties that don't have a Guardian ad Litem volunteer to advocate for their best interest. So, although we're working remotely, the need continues to weigh as heavily as it always has. As such, it has "forced our hands" to think and operate outside of the Recruitment "box" that we previously knew so well. Consequently, since mid-March, Recruitment has:
  • Conducted a minimum of 4 online Information Sessions per week (via Zoom, Go-to-Meeting).
  • Conducted all pre-screen interviews of potential candidates in an online format (i.e. Zoom, Go-to-Meeting).
  • Made several presentations to civic and community groups via online formats. 
  • Transitioned our initial training classes into an online format
  • Created a page on Instagram, an online social media platform, to build further brand awareness, exposure and engagement.
  • Asked GALs to post an announcement expressing the need for volunteers on their Next Door accounts, another online neighborhood platform.  
By now, I'm sure you've identified the common theme...ONLINE. Prior to the onset of COVID-19, we wouldn't have entertained the thought of a total ONLINE Recruitment process. But amazingly, it's working! It seems that online access has, for the most part, been an attractive alternative to potential volunteers. We have seen an increase in attendance at our online Information Sessions, particularly in Pasco. On the whole, our training class rosters have been larger because the online format enables us to enroll Pasco & Pinellas students in the same class with much greater ease. We experienced a great response from the postings our GALs made on their Next Door accounts. We partnered with Pasco County to post our Facebook/Instagram posts to their social media pages. We conducted a multi-circuit online presentation, involving Recruiters from the 6th, 12th and 13th circuits, to employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), two of which are active GALs in Pinellas County. We've made online presentations to the Port Richey Rotary Club. Eckerd Foster Ambassador Virtual Event, Virtual sessions for Calvary Church and No More Orphans. Currently, Recruitment is scheduled to present virtually to a CPI training class, the Kiwanis Club and at the Foster Ambassadors monthly online sessions.

COVID-19 may have effected unexpected changes and adjustments. However, we remain undaunted in our pursuit of EACH ONE HAS ONE! As always, we remain open to any ideas, contacts and/or connections you may have to help us in our efforts to obtain an advocate for each one of these precious children. You have a standing invitation to contact your Recruiters at the contact information in the box below. 

Larnelle Scott
Community Outreach Coordinator
6th Circuit - Pasco County
___________________________________________________________
If you have an idea on places to recruit, a contact who might be a great Volunteer Child Advocate, or if you are part of a club, organization or group looking for a guest speaker, please be sure to reach out to us. In Pinellas, contact Karen Malo at 727-647-1858, karen.malo@gal.fl.gov or in Pasco contact Larnelle Scott at 727-834-3493 x3768, larnelle.scott@gal.fl.gov.

July Pinellas Child Advocate of the Month
Chandra Kasakevich

Chandra has been with the Guardian ad Litem program since March of 2019. Though she has not been with the program as long as some other volunteers, she has shown dedication and great perseverance. For her first case, she accepted the challenges of a 15 year old girl.  Through several placements, adoption break down, case managers, broken cell phones and many other things,  Chandra has been there through it all. There have been several times when she wondered if what she was doing is helping and making a difference. Several cycles of the teen talking with her, not talking with her, asking for things and  generally being a teenager. Through it all, Chandra has been diligent in advocating for her teen, patient with all of her moods and behaviors, present when her teen needs her, goal focused for the best hopeful end result, and determined to be for her teen whatever she needed. So because Chandra has been there for her teen no matter the circumstances, I give all of my thank you's to her for being her teens' s best advocate. Thank you Chandra! Sometimes we don't always know the difference we make, or that difference is not obvious, but that does not make it any less of a difference.

Susan Rice
Child Advocacy Manager
__________________________________________

August Pinellas Child Advocate of the Month 
Anne Glover
 
GALS are exceptional people. Anne Glover is an example of an outstanding GAL. Anne has been a volunteer child advocate since 2016 and has quickly developed a keen sense of the roles and responsibilities of a GAL. She has already taken on five cases since then, one of which has closed and four of which are still open. The one that closed, closed in permanent guardianship. Anne worked very closely with that family so that they understood the process, ensured that this option was what was in the best interest of this child, and explained to the family what closure would look like. She made a deep connection with that child and family. Thank you Anne!

Anne advocates strongly for the children on her cases and is always quick to respond when a visit is needed if an assigned GAL is not available. Anne's communication skills are extraordinary, facilitating the progress of her cases in a positive and effective manner. Currently one of Anne's cases has a lot of moving parts. Two children in two different foster homes in two different counties. These siblings hadn't been able to have a sibling visit in 3 years due to extenuating circumstances. Finally with the support and dedication of Anne, they were able to begin sibling visits. Anne made sure all parties and therapists were actively aware of the situation and concerns. She attended the first two visits just to make sure all was good. Without this, these sibling visits may have not been able to occur. This shows true dedication!

I am grateful to Anne for her abilities to communicate effectively with the parties on her cases, to maintain the needed communication, her appearance in Court, her timely visitation reports, and her skillful representation of the children that she represents. Thank you Anne Glover!

Melissa Soler, 
Child Advocacy Manager
__________________________________________

September Pasco Child Advocate of the Month
Bonnie Rogers

Bonnie Rogers began volunteering with our Program in June 2019. She is actively working her first case which is now a TPR case with a goal of adoption for three young boys. Bonnie has been a strong advocate for these children especially in the beginning of the case when they were placed separately and on a night-to-night basis. She was able to get the brothers placed together with a relative, which is now the potential adoptive placement. Over the last year, Bonnie has been a reliable, trustworthy, and friendly face to these little boys. Being a GAL has put it on Bonnie's heart to continue to advocate for children and families. Bonnie strives to be the CHANGE we want to see in the World.

Bonnie returned to school at the age of 50! She is a graduate of PHSC with an A.S. in Human Service, and she plans to attend St. Leo University in the Spring. She is President of the Human Service Club and has been honored for both her academic achievements and her service to the community.

Bonnie's Favorite Quote: Yesterday is Gone. Tomorrow has not come yet. We only have today. Let us begin. - Mother Teresa

Valerie Mooney
Pasco Child Advocacy Manager Two 
__________________________________________

September Pinellas Volunteer Child Advocate of the Month: Wanda Hardin

Wanda has been an amazing addition to my team! While she has only been a GAL for a year, she hit the ground running! She does an excellent job of conducting an investigation independent of case management, and thoroughly documents everything, which is extremely valuable to the GAL team back in the office. In addition to her great sleuthing skills, she is extremely compassionate with those on her cases as well; handling tough situations with ease and grace. Wanda recently took on a very complicated and messy case, in addition to the troublesome case she was already handling, in an effort to provide assistance to  me (her CAM). I could not be more thankful to have Wanda on our team!! 

Jen Morrison
Child Advocacy Manager 


Street Beat  

Valerie Mooney, CAM Two, distributing masks in Pasco! 

Self Care Tips

"You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection."    Buddha 
It has been 7 months since we entered a pandemic. In March, we didn't know we would be still wearing masks and social distancing. Self-care and mental health has taken more of a spotlight during this worldwide crisis. Now that many children have returned to school we will naturally get more calls to the abuse hotline and subsequently, we will be appointed to more cases so we really need each and every one of our volunteers.

Unfortunately, this pandemic has greatly increased the stress we are all having in our own lives and coupled with that of our families, self-care becomes even more important. Recently, a prospective volunteer asked me what the GAL program does to help prevent our staff and volunteers from burnout. We talked about the things we do here at the GAL Program to encourage volunteers to practice self-care and I told him about the BBL's and this article and he was happy to hear that there is a focus on this.

As many ways to care for yourself as there are, it can still be hard to focus on our own care when so many others rely on us. It really needs to be a habit that is practical enough to incorporate into our daily lives. Perhaps you can strive to do one thing each day JUST FOR YOU whether it's exercising, meditating or sitting quietly with a cup of coffee or tea, reading a book or getting outside even just for a few minutes as the hint of fall is in the air.

Take Care,
Karen Malo. 
Community Outreach Coordinator           
 
Poets Corner
children_at_school.jpg

 Children Learn What They Live
  By Dorothy Law Nolte



If children live with criticism, They learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, They learn to fight.
If children live with ridicule, They learn to be shy.
If children live with shame, They learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, They learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, They learn to be patient.
If children live with praise, They learn to appreciate.
If children live with acceptance, They learn to love.
If children live with approval, They learn to like themselves.
If children live with honesty, They learn truthfulness.
If children live with security, They learn to have faith in themselves 
and others.
If children live with friendliness, They learn the world is a nice place
in which to live.

Core Values

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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.