Virtual Pinellas BBL
11:30 AM-1:00 PM
Virtual Pasco BBL
March 19, 2021
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Join the discussion on the barriers faced in finalizing adoptions. Also presenting: Early Childhood Development Court
Virtual Pasco BBL
April 16, 2021
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Virtual Pinellas In Service
April 5, 2021
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Jepera Hvidberg, Esq Christina Clemenson, Esq
Dade City Virtual In-Service
April 12, 2021
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Learn about the programs and services of the Guardian ad Litem Foundation of Tampa Bay. Register Here
Watch for announcements from your CAM or GALP office for virtual trainings and brown bag lunches or view the on line event calendar. Register using the events calendar under the Pinellas tab Here
Jennifer & Shawn Edwards
Mary Melissa Lane
Vicky and Charles Talley
| Great Peeps To Tweet
Sandy Holcomb - making great contacts to help advocate for her kiddo.
Dulcee Loehn - making contact with parents to get a full picture of the case.
Susan Ferraro - committed to making sure her teen is successful in school and keeping on the parents to get involved in school needs.
Celaine Ellsworth - kept an open mind about relatives on a TPR case involving severe abuse.
Denis Karaiskaj - ready for first TPR trial.
Julia Myers - working her 4 pack case like a pro.
Mia Sidlasky - always willing to take another case and especially when it's one that's come back in.
Evelien Still - always available to answer questions or provide guidance.
Kudos from Jennifer Sheaffer to all of the CAMs and attorneys who answer questions or give guidance.
Fran Scerbo - being a fierce and knowledgeable advocate for her children.
Congratulations to CAM, Carlee Mokma and her husband on the birth of their son!
Tawnee Walling - thank you for the amazing job you did during Christmas to ensure that it ran as smoothly as possible.
Gaye Lene Hasha- You retired from GALP, but are staying on as a GAL with two cases!
Tina Hohlfeld - Thank you for staying with a difficult case until adoption.
All of our volunteers- for working so hard during a difficult time to make sure that your kiddos still had a good Christmas.
Martha Shibley- Thank you for advocating for a very medically needy child.
Nicolette Love - Thank you for being so knowledgeable about your case. The way you keep track of several children is impressive.
Robert Cemovich - Thank you for putting good notes in Optima.
Andrea Truslow - Thank you for not giving up on your case through all the difficulties with case management.
Nancy Blount - I'm keeping my fingers crossed that your case moves quickly to finalization. You have been an amazing advocate for you kids.
Cheryl Brennan - Thanks for making a quick assessment visit to see a child.
Robert Jones - for having very detailed reports for court.
Vince Rieger - always being there for assessments, difficult cases, all his GAL kids and families. You have such a wonderful heart. Thank you!
Dave Gould - an amazing attorney in Dade City and being so consistent during this difficult time. Your communication skills are amazing!
Xochitl Avila - getting all documents uploaded for GALs and CAMs. You are timely and always upbeat!
Geri Ford - being there for your kids and family. Thanks for detailed documentation and staying consistent with a difficult case.
Patricia Ford - who has been a phenomenal mentor! She is assisting on a case with six kids and two volunteers. She has done an excellent job identifying follow-up matters for the kids. She jumped in multiple times going above and beyond! Jen is very thankful.
Kathy Smith - for staying with her case/child for over 5 years! Finally, the child lives who in a loving foster home will be adopted soon. Kathy always visited every month and video chatted or talked on the phone. Kudus for writing excellent JR reports!
Patricia Ford - Kudos from Carmen. She has 5 cases and is very very involved with each child and parents. She knows exactly what and how her children are doing and closely monitors the parents. She attends all staffings, school meetings, JR's, advocacy reviews and follows up with case managers.
Jennifer Mongelluzzi - Jen is a new GAL and is doing very well advocating for her special needs child that is living with a non-relative. She keeps in touch with the parent and talks or visits with her child every month. She knows exactly what is going on with the child and has articulated very well on her excellent JR reports. Jen also is a nurse and has a good understanding of the behaviors of the child and the medications the child previously took.
Flo Bell - She has been on Carmen's team for 14 years! She was also a GAL in another state before coming to FL. She has had many cases but the recent case involved a special needs child. Flo has advocated for this child for several years. It is complex and frustrating at times but she is committed to see that her child obtains permanency.
for everything to both Pam Barkley
Gaye Lene Hasha who recently retired from GALP. Enjoy your retirement!
Thank you for your outstanding work, and best of luck to Administrative Assistant Amber Lewis who is departing for a new job.
Welcome New Certified Volunteers
Gaye Lene Hasha
Melanie St. Johns
Annsley Van Buskirk
Twenty Three Years
Jayshree "Jay" Pathak
Virginia "Ginny" Nourie
Paul Cavonis Esq.
Suzanne Pileggi, Esq.
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.
Unity is strength, division is weakness.
It's hard to believe that it is February 2021 already. Next month will mark one year since we began working remotely and our hearings began to occur via Zoom. Thank you to all of our volunteers for your patience and understanding during these changes, and with the changes this year will bring.
As of this writing, hearings are still occurring via Zoom with few exceptions. All of you should have received the Updated Memo on Visitation and Travel. If you have any questions, please reach out to your CAM and, of course, you can always reach out to me. Please be certain to submit your travel timely as explained in the memo.
As always, stay safe and thank you for everything each of you do to make a difference in the lives of the children we represent.
Welcome Erin Authier
Erin Authier is the new Executive Director for the Guardian ad Litem Foundation of Tampa Bay (GALF). Erin is a native Floridian and Tampa Bay area resident who fell in love with serving others when she was a teenager, volunteering on local and national mission trips and at summer camps. This passion for charitable work stuck with her through college and into adulthood. Prior to joining GALF, Erin served as Executive Director of Central FL for the Muscular Dystrophy Association for more than 11 years. She is skilled at engaging the community in the mission of an organization and is excited to be using her many years of strategic planning and stewardship to now serve the foster care community. Erin has served as a foster parent to more than 10 children over 4 years and has become the proud mother to her daughter Amber, whom she adopted from foster care. Erin and Amber live in Clearwater along with their rescue dog, Bailey. Erin attended the University of West Florida where she obtained her Bachelors in Marketing and Masters in Educational Leadership. I look forward to working with her!
Sixth Circuit Vital Statistics:
Of those without a GAL
Transportation Approved Volunteers
Volunteer Child Advocate Best Practices
- Please enter your visit notes in Optima as soon as possible after your visit.
- Remember to document conversations related to your case in Optima.
- Always reach out to the parents on your case and document in Optima all efforts even if they are unsuccessful.
- When you transport you child, remember to fist discuss with your CAM.
For volunteers 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.
The 2020 legislative session brought many changes to the statutes that were aimed at reinstating a system of accountability and designed to address longstanding issues affecting Florida's families. The three most prominent bills were the Child Welfare Bill, Department of Children and Family Accountability Act and Jordan's Law.
The Child Welfare Bill (HB 1105) made a number of change. Some of the changes include:
Changes to §39.301 require DCF to notify the court of any central abuse hotline call accepted for investigation concerning a child over whom the court has jurisdiction.
Changes to 39.0138 require DCF to complete criminal history records checks on anyone being considered for placement within 14 days.
Post-disposition change of custody, section 39.522(1) has been amended and now contains a list of ten considerations for determining whether a change of legal custody or placement is in the best interests of the child.
§39.544(4) is amended to add four additional factors for the court to consider when removing a child from a parent, after reunification has occurred with a safety plan. One of those being the caregiver's protective capacities.
The Court must maintain jurisdiction after reunification, beyond 6 months if there is a safety plan in place. §39.701(1)(b)2.
Specific Parenting partnerships are laid out that discuss how DCF and CBC's shall develop and support relationships between caregivers and parents. §409.1415.
§39.6011 has added 5 new requirements for development of a case plan. These requirements are intended to promote a productive relationship between the caregivers and parents. Further, that if "ineffective communication takes place that negatively impacts the child", the caregivers or parents should notify the case manager.
Judicial Review Social Studies Report now requires a section that contains caregiver input on the well-being of the child, the impact of services and the relationship with this child's parents. §39.701(2)(a)6.
The Court is now required to determine whether the parents and caregivers have a productive relationship with meaningful communication and mutual support. §39.701(2)(a)14.
See Chapter 2020-138, Laws of Florida.Jordan's Law
. (SB 122) Chapter 39 was amended to improve the ability of courts, law enforcement, and dependency stakeholders to respond to cases involving head trauma and brain injuries in young children. It provides that Judges, CPT, CPIs, DCF Attorneys, CBC employees, GALs, and law enforcement officers must be educated on head trauma and brain injury in children under 6. There is also a provision that requires DCF and Law Enforcement to communicate with each other during an investigation.
See Chapter 2020-40, Laws of Florida.DCF Accountability Act
(SB1326) created performance standards to parties along with specific procedures and plans to address systemic deficiencies within the state Department of Children and Families. Multiple statutes in Chapter 409 are amended to implement the initiative through contracting and accountability measures for CBC partners. There are also numerous provisions governing DCF's partnerships with sheriff's offices conducting protective investigations including requiring them to adopt the child welfare practice model, to operate in accordance with federal performance standards and be subject to annual evaluations.
See Chapter 2020-152, Laws of Florida.
You can view the bills in their entirety at flsenate.gov or the individual
Elyse McGuire, Esquire
Senior Program Attorney
It's hard to believe it's almost been a year since we began recruiting remotely. Since then we have had to figure out how to do outreach in a whole new way. Like most of the world, recruiting has shifted online to get the word out. We are happy to say we have continued to recruit remotely throughout the pandemic. Training is being conducted online as well. We trained 207 new advocates since last January. We have done outreach through various online platforms such as Zoom, Go To Meeting, Google Meet and WebEx and with your help, we even posted ads on Nextdoor which brought in many leads. We have kept our weekly info sessions schedule which are conducted virtually through Zoom. There has been good attendance, as people can attend from the comfort of their home. The pandemic has created some new time in people's schedules and we are happy that they chose us and the kids we serve. Even after COVID, we add to our toolbox this new way of reaching a broader audience.
Just this week we learned that we will begin doing in person socially distanced events. In Pinellas, I spent a day in Dunedin and brought bookmarks, business cards and brochures for distribution to the Little Free Libraries and area businesses. I was able to accomplish in-person outreach, while wearing a mask and social distancing. Thanks to Rita Yezzi for inviting us to the Palm Harbor Newcomers Club which met at a park, where all wore masks and practiced social distancing. We also participated in Eckerd's monthly Foster Ambassador trainings to give those who are not ready to foster or adopt another avenue to help children in the system. Another source of volunteers this past year has been Calvary Church, with the help of GAL and former CAM, Gaye Lene Hasha.
You may have heard about the new Guardian ad Litem license tags. These offer another way to create awareness, as well as raising funds. We are working to spread the word on social media to achieve our goal of 3,000 pre-sales. You can purchase one for yourself and share our posts on social media too. Information is Here
Please reach out with recruitment ideas to or if you know someone who is interested in volunteering. We also have a one page digital brochure we can send you to forward to anyone interested.
Follow us on Instagram Here
Subscribe to our YouTube channel Here
Recommend us on NextDoor Pasco: Here Pinellas: Here
Karen Malo, Community Outreach Coordinator
6th Circuit - Pinellas County
November Pinellas Child Advocate of the Month
Gina Logan has been a volunteer child advocate for over 3 years. She goes above and beyond for all of the children she serves. Gina is known for her unique ability to connect with teenagers and transition them successfully into adulthood. Gina remains a support for children and their families long after the case closes, helping families remain successful. Gina has also begun mentoring new GALs that enter our program. She is always up for a challenge and willing to help at a moment's notice. The children she served who have now aged out of the system, always know they have an ally in their corner and a source of support if ever needed.
Child Advocacy Manager
November Pasco Child Advocate of the Month
While Paula has only been a GAL for a short time, she hit the ground running! She took on a media case with a level of difficulty that even a very seasoned GAL may struggle with. Her case has quite the "trifecta" - mental health issues, substance use and criminal justice matters. Paula has worked her case with grace, compassion, and fierce advocacy for this young child. She is amazing with communication, collaboration, and not making any promises she can't keep! In addition to being an incredible volunteer, Paula works full time as a speech pathologist, is a wife and a mother. Her determined kindness and caring approach to others is truly an inspiration. Thank you, Paula!
Pasco Child Advocacy Manager
January Pinellas Child Advocate of the Month Deborah Conflenti
Deborah Conflenti started volunteering with GAL in February 2019 because she believes that every child's journey is unique and deserving of attention and detail. This belief started many years ago when Deb opened her own Family Law practice in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She always believed that through the client's journey, they should be equipped with a caring legal team, which would resolve their legal matters. She brought those beliefs with her when she relocated to St. Petersburg, FL in 2018 and then all of a sudden found herself at a GAL info session. Since joining the GAL program, Deb has been appointed to represent one child. Deb has spent the past 24 months tirelessly advocating and fighting for one lucky teen. Deb has focused on making sure this teen has all the services he needs, education and normalcy. Deb has met her teen at McDonald's for moral support when he interviewed for a job. Deb organized for tutoring and kept in contact with the school and teachers to make sure he is staying on track. Deb arranged for this teen to get his learner's permit and even met him at the DMV when he went to take his test. The Magistrate and the teen's Attorney ad Litem have praised Deb about how dedicated she is for this youth. Deb always communicates with all parties including parents and makes sure everyone is included in information and decision-making. Deb is a pro at thinking outside the box and getting creative when she runs into barriers. This is what makes Deb such a great GAL, friend, support and voice for this child.
Lia Susana Rodriguez,
Child Advocacy Manager Two
January Pasco Child Advocate of the Month
Julie has been with our program in the 6th circuit (Dade City) for 1.5 years! She previously was a foster mother and Guardian ad Litem in Colorado. Julie is a teacher and nurse and enjoys working with children. Although it has been a tough case Julie has taken on she has never given up on her kids. The kids have a hard time trusting adults and Julie has been a constant in their lives for over a year now. Julie is a very strong advocate that works well with family members, group homes, foster families and parents. She is a detailed note taker and writes timely reports. Julie is a pleasure to work with and I am blessed to be her CAM. Thank you Julie for never giving up and always putting your GAL children first. Thank you very much!
Pasco Child Advocacy Manager
February Pinellas Volunteer of the Month
Melodie Menzer became interested in the GAL Program in Law School, during an internship while writing appellate briefs for TPR cases. She has been a volunteer for 4 ½ years and has had the same courtesy case the entire time, a sibling group and seeing the oldest age out. Melodie said "by seeing the aging out process she was inspired to contribute to co-found the community non-profit Cetera, Inc." Melodie is very kind and dedicated not only to the Guardian ad Litem program but also to the sibling group. Melodie visited the siblings in a combined 6 placements in 3 counties. Melodie's stability has made a significant difference in their lives. Melodie is very resourceful in meeting the siblings needs whether its education, counseling, Christmas gifts, or spending personal time playing games together. I can always depend on Melodie to be on top of what needs to be done, keeping all parties informed, conducting monthly visits and entering reports in Optima. I am honored and grateful to have Melodie on my team.
Child Advocacy Manager
February Pasco Volunteer of the Month
The volunteer of the month is Linda Berry. Linda is a retired Spanish teacher and has chosen the Guardian ad Litem Program to further utilize her talents as a teacher and a leader. Linda accepted a Drug Court case as her very first case and skillfully handled the challenge. Despite some challenges in her life, Linda accepted two additional cases and tirelessly advocates for the children. Utilizing her teaching expertise, Linda advocates for the children to receive the services, including the academic and developmental services that are needed. In addition, Linda is able to cultivate an excellent relationship with the children and caregivers. Linda's generosity is admirable as she recently made quilts for the children for Christmas. The Guardian ad Litem Program is truly blessed to have Linda as a part of this essential program. Thank you Linda for advocating for the best interest of the children that you serve.
Child Advocacy Manager
Self Care Tips
the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one's own health.
the practice of taking an active role in protecting one's own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.
"expressing oneself is an essential form of self-care"
Definitions from Oxford Languages
This year has been a year like no other, we all can agree on that. It has given us all time to reflect on the things that really matter and focus on keeping ourselves strong both physically and mentally. I thought a lot about how I define self-care and feel that it is a two part equation. It is not only recognizing what you need when you need it, but also loving yourself enough to listen and finding a way to invest in ourselves. Everyone has their own idea of what self-care means to them. For myself, there were days this past year when I wanted to eat my favorite comfort food, but that may not have been what my body really needed at the time. There are days when self-care can be as simple as sitting outside to drink my coffee before starting my day or enjoying a cup of tea before bedtime. Some days it is listening to music or getting to talk to family or friends. It may be just being alone. You may feel better after a run. Some people may prefer a walk or a bike ride. I love camping and being outside without internet, however for some people that may be torture. Whatever is positive that helps us move our bodies, connect with others or nature and stimulate our brains in a new way can be self-care.
Here are a few resources for you to check out, including a great month by month workbook for making a plan for self-care.
Karen Malo, Community Outreach Coordinator
For the Children
|Each year, the Guardian ad Litem Foundation of Tampa Bay provides support for GAL children to attend enriching summer opportunities like day camps, soccer leagues, dance classes and more. GALF is now accepting summer camp requests! Most affordable opportunities are posted in February and March and fill quickly. Prior to submitting a request, please confirm that the camp requires level 2 background checks for their staff and that transportation is available for the duration of the camp experience. Information is Here
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.