Insider News for the
6th Circuit
Guardian ad Litem
November 2016
In This Issue
Save These Dates!
Florida's Quality Parenting Initiative
Live Web Event Invitation Presented by
the Florida Quality Parenting Initiative

Join us for a Live Webinar Series:
Second session:
December 19, 2016
12:00-1:00 p.m. EST

Featuring national infant mental health expert
Dr. Charles Zeanah, and hosted by Judge Hope Bristol,
the series will begin with an overview of half a
century of research about the development of attachment
between parents and children and consider its implications for court decision-making. In subsequent webinars, continuing in 2017, participants will use
case studies to further understand how early childhood development science can inform family time (visitation), custody, reunification, and transitions. AUDIO will be provided over your Computer. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions. 

Click here to register for the December 19th webcast or copy and paste this link into your browser: http://tinyurl.com/zlm86qm
If you have technical questions or concerns, please contact
Center Support staff at centersupport@usf.edu
The Center for Child Welfare Visit us online at www.qpiflorida.org

Upcoming Web Event!
"Child Sexual Abuse and the Foster Child: What Do I Do Now?"
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
2:00 - 3:30 PM (Eastern)
Presented by: Kelly Plouffe, LMFT, CCTP
Trauma Treatment Program - Clinical Director
Children's Advocacy Center - Pasco Kids First 
Click  here  to REGISTER for the webcast or copy and paste this link into your browser: http://tinyurl.com/hhaukn6

If you have technical questions or concerns please contact Center Support staff at

Brown Bag Lunches


Friday Dec 18, @ 11.30 am   
ICOT Center,
14102 58th St, Clearwater 
NPR: Friday Dec 18 @
12 pm Health Dept, 10841 Little Rd   Bldg B, New Port Richey

Stars of the Month 
Sue White
  Christina Strickland
  Peggy Chase
  Denise Kirschbaum
  Jillmarie Guarino
  Vaughn Haight
  Kerri Shaver
  Steve Rosenkranz
  Karen Ragsdale
  Falyn Hann/Kimberly Drake
  Michael Chambers
  Diane Harrell
  Sam Dulberg

Jim Blaney
  Robert Shearer
Teresa Ceresani 
Greg Cardinal
Toni Pauline
Lisa Crandall
Anna Marie Maguire


Like us on Facebook
Welcome new GALs
Azcurra, Nataly
Brown, Sheila
Gnatowsky, Richard
Hair, Teresa
Hale, Melissa
Lomas, Victoria
McDermott, George
Pandolfino, Mary
Paulson, Peggy
Pileggi, Suzanne
Sigl, Austin
Vitale, Phyllis

New Staff

Welcome to Lisa Nicolaro our new Part Time CAM in Pasco. Lisa is working on her Masters in Criminal Justice from St. Leo,  She has been a GAL volunteer for 2 years, and has extensive experience in the legal field in multiple arena 

Great Peeps to Tweet! 

 Thank you Melissa Jagger for your dedication for your GAL assigned youth and your commitment to our work.
Thank you Samuel Harris! Sam has taken on two cases, one of which is quickly going to trial. His CAM has all the information and documentation needed. You are doing a terrific job Sam!  Thank you to William Meyer who always follows up in regard to serious mental health issues on one of his cases.   Congratulations to Dennis Fagan. After a lengthy case, two of the children he represents are near finalization of adoption. Thank you Dennis. Thank you Hugo Rodriguez. Your visits to a special child are so important.   Thank you Tina Hohlfeld who was able to initiate services for a special needs child.  Thank you to Nancy Blount who travels extensively to care for and represent her children.  Thank you to Judy Geier. After a very long case, one of Judy's children is going to achieve permanency. Judy travelled to every placement during the length of this case, no matter where this child was placed.  Sheri Ann Johnson is always willing to help out whether doing courtesy home visits or like this month, transporting children to/from school. Sheri pitches in without hesitation. Thank Sheri!  Kudos to Vince Rieger for making sure one of his children was able to get her surgery. A medical order was needed and Vince had to stay on top of everyone to get this order that was finally done the day before the surgery.   Kudos to Tracy Wilhelm for staying with her child all the way up to a successful adoption.  Special thanks to Marleen Struys who this month  has participated by phone  in 2 staffings and stayed connected with her child  - while in Europe! 
Christina Fitzpatrick , thank you for returning to volunteer for us with your very busy life and for taking back a very difficult case.   Margaret Smith , thank you for a successful end to your case and for assisting with the adoption day festivities.   Linda Grandinetti , thank you for your 8 dedicated years of service to our program and for a successful adoption of one of your cases and close to having another adoption!   Lisa Nicolaro , thank you for being on top of your case and always keeping me informed.    
Peggy Miller , thanks for doing an emergency child visit for me and bringing me the important information needed to see that this placement was not going to work out.    
Ann and Gary Worthley , thank you both for your diligence on closing out a case with reunification!    
Dottie and Jack Atkins , thank you for your continued dedication to your current case heading to adoption!   Jay Dusek , welcome aboard my team!  It is a pleasure to have you and thank you for a great start!   Modupe Kuforiji, happy 3 month anniversary with the program!  Thank you for doing such a great job!   Jim Blaney , my dear long time friend, it is so fantastic to have you back in Florida and back with our program!   Donna Gaffney , thank you so much for advocating for our girl so well, even at a distance!   Gene Goldberg , so glad that you are able to see your kids again and that you could see the conclusion of your hard work in your recent adoption.   Irvin Joseph , thank you so much for advocating for 2 teenagers who really need you.  
Nancy Hobart - I am thrilled to have you for the last 5 years working so hard on our young man and going above and beyond to try to meet his needs.  I truly believe that he would have been even more lost to us without having you!   Cynthia Neumeier, glad you are back for the season and thank you for taking on a new case and already tracking down the kids who had moved, and visiting them in St. Pete!   Fran Scerbo , thank you for being magnificent at everything you do for our program, but especially for being the GAL for our boy! 
Kudos to Roger DePauw, Mitch Aydlette, Chuck Magee for actively advocating and visiting their children in Pasco and continued great work.
And a shout out to Courtesy GAL Visitors in Pinellas Peter Throdahl and Wendy Grassi for visiting Pasco Kids in Pinellas and great visit reports.  Kudos to Ethan Romans, Darlene Brower, Barbara Whelan, Vincent De Rosa,  for taking on new children.  Welcome Kermit Dunn and Cynthia Webb to the team!  AnnMarie DiMaio, Gyda DePeppe, and Polly Eskew have all been doing a wonderful job and continue to assist with visits, being mentors, and assisting with fundraisers.  Kudos to  Grant McKeel for taking on a new case  Thank you to Pat Phillips for being our office volunteer in New Port Richey.  You have been a wonderful addition to the team and we are very grateful for all your help!  

November is the month we celebrate Thanksgiving and remember all we are thankful for.   Mel Copeland and Dianne Bernard  are thankful for many things, but the people we are most thankful for is you (courtesy visitors and assessment team)  We would like to express our gratitude for all you do for our children and the GAL Program.  

Dade City
"Thank You" Celebration

On November 10, 2016 the Dade City GALs ate dinner together, played games and participated in fun team building activities.
GALs Roger and Cheryl Flaherty, (l-r back row), Joan Spangler and Harmony Davis
(l-r front row) working on one of our fun activities
  Thanks Tibet!

I got to see first hand how Tibet calmed my three children down in the courthouse.  Their ages are  all under 12.  This dog has a sweet disposition and is very gentle with the children.   My 3 kids wanted desperately to see their mother.  They drew pictures and wrote notes  to her while we all waited for the mother to show up in court.  She never came. The kids were distracted from their deep disappointment with the help of Tibet.   I was very very sad for the childrenI want to thank Tibet and my GAL Bob Kocher and his wife (GAL in Tampa)  for taking their time to make sure the kids were happy and comfortable during their court appearance. 

~ Diana Aboussir,
Child Advocacy Manager
Program Manager Perspective
Suzanne Parker,
Pasco County Program Manager   

Dear Child Advocates,
I'm very excited to let you know about the $250,000 National Court Appointed Special Advocate Resource Grant our Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program Office has procured for marketing and recruiting new volunteers in the state of Florida.  Some of these dollars will be used for statewide marketing initiatives and some will be used in each judicial circuit.  Because of the tremendous need for Guardians ad Litem in Pasco County, whatever dollars given to the 6th Circuit will go to the recruitment of GALs in Pasco. 
Larnelle Scott, our Community Outreach Coordinator in Pasco County, Donna Rasmussen and I  have put together a comprehensive marketing plan with a monetary ask to support each item.  We included traditional media, such as print, billboards, radio and television.  We also focused heavily on social media via Facebook (posts and advertisement), Twitter and LinkedIn.  We will be working in partnership with our non profit, The Guardian ad Litem Foundation of Tampa Bay, to collaborate on  our outreach efforts, given our shared recruitment goals for our program.
We are targeting several over 55 communities, churches and St. Leo's University.  Our plan is to write articles highlighting our existing GALs who live, worship, are current students or alumni of these organizations and have them published in their respective newsletters to increase awareness about the great work our GALs do and the need for more volunteers to advocate for our community's children.
Our goal is to blanket Pasco County with  the message that becoming a Guardian ad Litem is the best way to be a powerful voice in the life a child so that they have a safe and permanent home and an opportunity to thrive. 

The 6th
Circuit Vital Statistics:
As of September 2016  

Children in Dependency   
2482 (>) 
Of those without a GAL
858 (>)
Case Volunteers
728 (<)
Transportation Approved Volunteers
   235 (<)
GAL Best Practices
    1. GAL CALENDAR: GALS, be sure to review your mail and mark your calendar in regard to court dates, when your Judicial Review report is due, when you need to schedule your next visit and staffing dates. If you need to confirm any dates, please feel free to call your CAM. 

    2. BROWN BAG LUNCHES: GALS, please review your emails for BBL dates, upcoming events and/or trainings. We are always so pleased and happy to join you at these gatherings

    3. EDUCATIONAL RECORDS: GALS please remember to follow up when it is time for report cards and check on the academic status of your child. If your child is in daycare, ask the daycare staff how the child is doing in that setting. If additional services are needed, school staff will also be able to keep us advised. 

    4. NEED HELP? GALS call your CAM at any time if you are in need of assistance and/or guidance. If your CAM is not available your Best Interest Attorney can assist as well. In any case, there is always someone available to assist you. Never hesitate to email and/or phone the GAL office. 
    Thank you GALS!

Legal Forum

Adoption Intervention
2016 Legislative Update

Florida's private adoption intervention statute authorizes private adoption entities to intervene in dependency proceedings in order to expedite permanency for children in the child welfare system and to promote a public/private partnership between Department of Children and Families and private adoption. Florida Statutes section 63.082(6) enables a parent involved in a dependency court case to execute a "consent to adoption" documents with a private adoption entity, and in doing so, have a voice in deciding who was going to adopt their child(ren).
A parent may still execute "consent to adoption" documents with a private adoption entity and the entity may motion the court to intervene. However, in July 2016, significant changes to the adoption intervention portion of chapter 63 were enacted. The statute now requires the court to closely consider the circumstances before determining whether a change of custody will take place, including what is in the best interest of these child(ren).
One new addition to Chapter 63 is a notice provision. This provision requires that "the court shall provide written notice to the biological parent who is a party to the case of his or her right to participate in a private adoption plan . . ." Fla. Stat. Ann. § 63.082 (g). Parents are also to be given a list of the "best interest" factors discussed below. This notice is to be given at arraignment, in the order that approves a case plan, and in the order allowing a change of goal to adoption. However, if such notice is not given, it is uncertain exactly what the remedy would be for the violation.
Previously the adoption intervention statute did not apply unless a child was in the custody of the Department (foster care). The new statute specifically eliminates that wording and allows the statute to be applicable to any child under the supervision of the Department, or otherwise under the jurisdiction of the dependency court. Fla. Stat. Ann. § 63.082 (6)(a).
Finally, the biggest change to chapter 63, and one championed by the Guardian ad Litem Program addresses the standard that the court must use and findings that must be made before a change of placement can be approved in cases when a private adoption entity has intervened. Under the prior law, the court could move a child if it found that such a move was "appropriate." The new law requires that the change of placement be "in the best interest of the child." Fla. Stat. Ann. § 63.082 (6)(c). Under prior law the court was limited in what factors it could consider in determining whether it is in the best interest to transfer custody of a child to a prospective private adoptive placement. Now, the court is to consider all relevant factors, including, but not limited to:
1. The permanency offered;
2. The established bonded relationship between the child and the current caregiver in any potential adoptive home in which the child has been residing;
3. The stability of the potential adoptive home in which the child has been residing as well as the desirability of maintaining continuity of placement;
4. The importance of maintaining sibling relationships, if possible;
5. The reasonable preferences and wishes of the child, if the court deems the child to be of sufficient maturity, understanding, and experience to express a preference;
6. Whether a petition for termination of parental rights has been filed pursuant to s. 39.806(1)(f), (g), or (h);
7. What is best for the child; and
8. The right of the parent to determine an appropriate placement for the child.
Fla. Stat. Ann. § 63.082 (6)(e).

The additional factors require the court to properly consider the best interest of the children subject to adoption entity intervention; thereby increasing the Guardian ad Litem Program's ability to successfully advocate for what is in the child's best interest.

If you have questions regarding adoption intervention, contact your assigned CAM or CBIA on your cases. Go to flsenate.gov to view Florida statutes.

                      ~Dean Zona, Esquire
Senior Best Interest Attorney 
New Port Richey Office

Recruitment Corner

With our last classes of the year  finished, we are excited to welcome 34 new Guardians to the GAL Team. Now we are turning our thoughts to recruiting Guardians for the new year.  Just because we had our last training does not mean we can rest here in the Recruitment Department but we will pause to spend time with our families during the holidays.  We are always getting ready for the next round of trainings which will be on  January 10th-26th on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6-9PM  in Pasco and January 14, 21st and 28th on Saturdays from 9 AM to 4PM in Pinellas.   We have also transitioned to using Optima for applications and this has helped us to get applications in quicker than ever.  Here is the link to our online application if you know of someone interested: 
We will also invite them to attend one of our Information Sessions if they have not done so already. 
In Pinellas, we continue to get some good leads from a variety of sources and Pasco is growing as well but of course we also have to keep replanting seeds in the community as people often do not always sign up when they initially hear about GAL.  Sometimes it takes a while for them to feel ready to make such a commitment.  Many times when I ask people how they heard of us they tell me they have known about us for awhile and have always wanted to do this kind of volunteer work and now is finally the right time and what better time than in the new year.  So, I would just like to remind you as you are going about your everyday business, if you think of ways we can spread the word and plant more "seeds" in the community, we can all work towards our goal of having every child who need a voice having one!  Maybe you are part of a book club and perhaps you could suggest reading a book about foster care and help to start the conversation and perhaps inspire yet another advocate.  As always contact Karen Malo at 727-464-6147 or karen.malo@gal.fl.gov  in Pinellas or Larnelle Scott at 727-834-3493 or larnelle.scott@gal.fl.gov in Pasco if you have ideas on how we can spread the word!

~ Karen Malo, 
Pinellas County Community 
Outreach Coordinator

Pasco GAL of the Month
Maureen Johnson has been a volunteer with the Guardian ad Litem Program since August 2014. Since that time she has advocated for 7 children. Maureen is compassionate and works well with parents - she's able to recognize their struggles and see their strengths - which isn't always easy to do! She is logical and assesses each situation carefully before making recommendations. Maureen is very thorough in her work as a volunteer and is always willing to go the extra mile. Maureen is thoughtful in her volunteering and always put the children's needs first. It is a pleasure having you on my team!


~Andrea Watson 

Child Advocacy Manager II

Pinellas GAL of the Month
Paul Alcocer has been a Guardian ad Litem for a period of four years. Paul is an outstanding advocate for the children he has represented and now represents. Presently Paul is working diligently to assure that all services are in place in order to work toward adoption of this young boy. This case is a reopen and has been extremely challenging in every way, not only culturally, but also in regard to the parents. Paul never gave up and worked with the mother and eventually the mother and the child were reunited. Paul continued to work other cases when this case reopened. Paul immediately took on this reopen again, attempting to work with the mother, encouraging her, remaining very patient with her in order to assist this parent to work her case plan in order to achieve reunification. However, the mother was uncooperative, blocking Paul's attempts at communication. The father had long since disappeared. Sadly for the child, the case proceeded to termination of parental rights. Paul stood by this child and still stands by this child to ensure that all needed services are in place. Termination of parental rights is a trauma for any child. Paul's ability to engage with parents, to be supportive of the child, and to be the voice of the child, is remarkable. This Child Advocacy Manager is grateful that there has been only ONE (1) GAL working with this child over many years, maintaining stability for this young boy.

GAL Paul Alcocer is truly outstanding in every
Holding down a full time job, he is 100% GAL every day.
Thank you Paul, for such diligence and efforts as well.
Your child's smile says it all and everyone can

  ~ Diana Aboussir, Child Advocacy Manager

Self Care Tips 

I recently experienced some car problems and it made me think about the topic of control.  I started out my morning like any other morning and headed out.  Well, on this particular morning in the midst of rush hour traffic my car lost power in the middle of a busy intersection leaving me to figure out how to get it restarted and get it to a safe area where I could call for help.  The first thought that ran through my head was how out of control of my morning I felt.  When I finally was able to get it to a nearby gas station my next task was to call for help which isn't always easy for me for fear of inconveniencing others.  I had to get over that real quick because there was still a job that needed to be done that day and I needed to figure out how to make it happen as best I could.  So, I did what needed to be done and got some help from some coworkers and a volunteer and got my car towed.  After being fortunate enough to get my car repairs covered under warranty from a previous repair, I ended up trading my car in for a new one.  I am a worrier by nature so now that I have a new vehicle I find myself being extra cautious and worrying about the first ding in my new car.  Ultimately I don't have control over certain things happening with my old vehicle or my new one.  There are things I can control such as keeping up on maintenance and driving defensively and safely.
As GALs this is something we struggle with as there are so many things in the dependency system that are beyond our control.  To name a few things other people's behavior(especially parents), what the judge decides in court and what happens to children when we are not there.  For many of us control seems to provide comfort and stability but ultimately there are just things we cannot control.  If we can learn to live with this fact and figure out the areas where we do have control, we can hopefully breathe a bit easier when we have done everything in our power and within our role  to advocate for the children in our care.  Often times what may seem like a well meaning intention may not be helping if we are trying to control a situation and this takes us outside of our role as Guardians.  It is easy to get passionate about our work and that is what makes a great Guardian after all - right?  If you are feeling like you want to control a situation or outcome, it is important to do a self check and ask yourself if you are keeping within your training as a guardian and refocus on what you CAN control.  Being consistent with visits, writing timely reports and highlighting children's needs are things we can control. 
We are one of the many "drivers" in our cases and the children are like our passengers.  There are some things we can control and other times someone else is in the driver's seat.  Although the road can be bumpy with lots of obstacles in our children's journey to permanency, we owe it to them to take control when we can and just stay the course when it calls for it.  

~Karen Malo , 
  Pinellas Community     Outreach  Coordinator
Poet's Corner

It is the season and our children are not at home.
 Alas, they find themselves in care and feel so alone.
The GAL is always present and comes to the door.
  We are grateful to all GALS as you visit more and more.

These children are going through trauma every day.
Thankfully, GALS are able to make this season far less gray.
We wish every GAL very good health and all the best.
We know how much you care. We know you never rest!

~ Diana Aboussir,
Child Advocacy Manager

For The Children

Camp Erin Tampa Bay 2017

Camp spots filling quickly!  Fill out a camper or volunteer application today!
Registration is now open!
Camp Erin® Tampa Bay is a FREE weekend sleep away camp specifically designed for kids and teens, 1st-12th grade, who have experienced the death of a significant person in their life.  At Camp Erin, kids have the opportunity to explore, express and memorialize while being aroung other kids who have experienced similar losses in their lives.  Many volunteers are also needed to help provide comfort, support, and fun during the camp weekend.
Camp Weekend:
Friday, February 24th - Sunday, February 26th, 2017
@ Word of Life Retreat Center in Hudson, FL
How Can I Get Involved?
  • REGISTER - Apply for your children to attend this years camp.
  • REFER - Tell a family or potential volunteer you know about the camp.
  • VOLUNTEER or DONATE - Support grieving children with your resources, finances, and time.
Campers will be chosen on a first come first serve basis with priority given to new campers*, following a required family interview. Due to high volume of applications, not all applicants will be able to attend this year, but will receive priority for next year's camp. Acceptance status will be communicated after all family interviews. 
Each camper needs to be signed up individually.
*Campers that have previously attended Camp Erin will automatically be added to the waitlist. Please verbally inform us if the child has experienced a significant death since attending.
More information and a printable application can be found at:  www.suncoastkidsplace.org/camperin 
More information and a printable application can be found at:  www.suncoastkidsplace.org/camperin

Provided by:
Suncoast Kid's Place:
Center for Grieving Children, Teens, and Their Families
17030 Lakeshore Road
Lutz, Florida 33558
About SKP:
Suncoast Kid's Place was founded in 2008 after realizing there was a huge need in our community for a place that children could share their feelings after someone dies and learn that they are not alone.
SKP offers peer support groups to children, teens, and families that have experienced the death of a significant person.  The groups are broken up by age and sometimes gender.
Our goal is to offer support to as many families as we can while also educating our community about children's grief.


Case Manager of the Month
   Jillian Russell - Youth & Family Alternatives

Jillian is responsive, very polite, friendly, professional, non-judgmental and she knows her cases well.

Sarah Miller - Lutheran Services

Sarah Miller is awesome to work with.  She personally keeps me updated on one of my cases, she is very efficient and
she works well with my Guardians.  She never fails to notify us of a staffing, and she is very thorough and direct.  You always
know what has been done and what needs to be done when she concludes a staffing. 

Congratulations and THANK YOU for your work on behalf of dependent children and their families!!


October Anniversaries 

Rosemarie Kibitlewski
Sylvia Sloan
Nancy Keyser


Mike Mcelvogue

Susan White
 Kim Thursby
Clare Mccarroll

Dione Chandler

Caprice Johnson
Elizabeth Gisondi
Brenda Smith-Jones
Margaret Smith

Allyson Holca

Mary Elizabeth Wagner

Brittany Bartels

Paul Cavonis Esq.
Joe Incorvia

 Delores Ring
Tandra Patterson
Cynthia Rudd
 Meaghan Begonis

Joyce Dibble
 Cheryl Flaherty
Britney Whitaker

Debra Brown-Adamo
Roger Flaherty
Cali Crisler
 Cathy Long

Darren Evans

 Judith Emmons

Mark Welsh

Nancy Pettygrove
Ronald Haddad

Arlene Nolke


Lynda Miller-Gaughan
 Sally Maier
Dennis Fagan
Eda Reyes
Deborah Jones
George Sherman
Corliss Cole
Jill Albury
Hope Bond
David Staruch

Robert Buchanan

 Lisa Tellone
Sandra Buchanan
Denise Lipsey
Robert Tellone

Cindy Correll


Travis Mcnulty
Florence Bell
Brittany Brochard
John Mione
Steven Tonnesen
Joanne Gonzales
Rita Burdick
Deborah Hoover



Nicole Johnson
Kimsy Brow
John Appel
Teresa Ceresani
Dennis Lockhart


Peggy Jasper
Jennifer Parker
Belinda Schultz
Tracy Wilhelm

Joanne Bryan