Pinellas Virtual BBL
Friday November 20
11:30 AM-1:00 PM
West Pasco Virtual BBL
Discussion with Charlie Solano and Salina Cummings, Esq.
Friday November 20
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.
Mary Melissa Lane
Letty Ann Felts
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
Armandina (Dina) May
Catherine Bare Sanchez
Twenty Two Years
Patricia Abby Nusbaum
Jack Callahan, Esq.
Donna Rose Esq.
Hoagland, Jamie Hoagland
David Neiser, Esq.
Anna Marie Maguire
Jeanne M Morgan
Cynthia 'Cindy' Drake
Thomas 'Tom' Dailey
Linda Sigmund Wong
Christopher 'Blake' Holtzhower
"The greatest discovery of all time is that a person
can change his future by merely changing his attitude."
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:
Of those without a GAL
Transportation Approved Volunteers
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.
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
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.
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, email@example.com or in Pasco contact Larnelle Scott at 727-834-3493 x3768, firstname.lastname@example.org.
July Pinellas Child Advocate of the Month
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.
Child Advocacy Manager
August Pinellas Child Advocate of the Month
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!
Child Advocacy Manager
September Pasco Child Advocate of the Month
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
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!!
Child Advocacy Manager
|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.
Community Outreach Coordinator
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
If children live with friendliness, They learn the world is a nice place
in which to live.
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.