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

Friday March 17 
11:30AM to 1:00  PM  
Icot Office

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

Dade City: March 10 12:00 PM
Dade City office.


New Port Richey March 15
4:30-6:30PM  Presentation by 
SEDNET who is a m ultiagency Network for Students with Emotional/Behavioral Disabilities (SEDNET) creates and facilitates a network of key stakeholders committed to assisting in the provision of a quality system of care for students with or at-risk of emotional and/or behavioral challenges.
NPR GAL office 
8324 Corporate Way

On Line Webinar
March 8 12:00PM-1:00PM
To register for the webinar please click this link: Go To Meeting 
That will take you to the website. At the top of the page on the right, you will see a Join a Meeting button. Click that.  Then put in this 9 diget meeting ID code 772368901
Or call toll free 1-866-899-4679 Access Code: 772-368-901 Please send any educational advocacy related questions to patty.walker@gal.fl.gov prior to March 8th . These questions will be addressed at the beginning of the webinar.

Stars of the Month

Karen Malo
Rachel Alexander
Flo Bell
Michelle Bauman
Kelly Hawk
Betty Oldanie
Cindy Johnson
Sam Harris
 J ean McNary
Ricky Gnatowsky
Peggy Paulson
Eda Reyes
Jennifer Kilmurray
 Martha Shibley
Vincent De Rosa
L upe Mayorga
Lisa Crandall
Chuck Magee  

Welcome New GALs

Baker, Katherine 
Barnes, Mindi 
Carsey, Diana
Connor, David
Daggett, Rebecca
Gramling, Anne 
Kaled, Julia 
Nguyen, Rebecca 
Peterson, Kelly
Raihill, Karen 
Schmittauer, Joseph 
Sheppard, Cindy
Sompels, Cathleen 
Timoney, Paula 
Wagner, Kathy 
Wang, Tao 
Witherspoon, Jona
Yeakel, Valerie 
Yezzi, Rita 

Welcome New Staff

Salina Cummings, 
Best Interest Attorney 

John Gohl, Best Interest Attorney

Great Peeps to Tweet! 

Pat Phillips,
 who drove from New Port Richey to  Dade City Office and spent many days, and countless hours labeling many  files so they could finally be sent to storage. A special "Thank you Pat", from Xochitl.   * 
Peggy Burns pushed for little children to be removed from a dangerous situation. Today the children and their siblings are safely together in the same home.  * 
LeAnn Kahl for being relentless with locating three siblings who were placed separately after the children had to leave a relative placement. *  
Tracey Wilhelm,  w ho made a out of this world strawberry deser t for the DC GAL inservice held February 23. GALs who ate it were immediately floating in Strawberry heaven. * 
Shannon Piloto, with her young child in hand, came to the Dade City office, and spent a couple of hours decorating our tree in the lobby for St. Patrick's Day. * 
Hugo Rodriguez for going above and beyond visiting two children not on his case list. Thank you
Nancy Blount  who always graciously steps up to help her CAM, no matter what! * 
Sam Harris , whose outstanding representation of his children is remarkable. * 
Kerri Shaver whose attention to detail is exceptional. Thank you for a great job! *  
Kristi Anson who never fails to answer the call!  * 
Kay Brulo for always being on top of things.  Thank you Kay. * 
Jo and Dick Nichols, always faithful on a very long lasting case that is now leading to adoption. * 
Thank you to Case Manager Kaitlin Marshall for your ongoing communication.
Pam Barkley  who was able to get a CASA in California to visit kids placed there for adoption, CASA was very responsive and even brought the children gifts! 
Thank you  Jill Albury
for committing over a year to a child's case that was just successfully closed with r eunification.
Welcome new GAL
Dowlin Howell and great job jumpling right in visiting the child and going to court within your first week!
Jeannie Foxworth   who has managed to visit her young chil dren at every one of their m ultiple placments that unfortunately has changed often. She has been fantastic and provided the stable force for these little ones and ensured their belongings went with them.
Chuck Magee for  a great job at a TPR trial.
Roger DePauw for accepting a new case which was indirectly related to two other cases he was assigned to already.
Peter Throdahl for detailed courtesy visit reports for Pasco County Cases placed  in Pinellas.
Kudos and Welcome:  I would like to welcome Doug Airey and Donna Foxwell not only to the Guardian Ad Litem program, but to my ( Wendy's) team. They are a wonderful addition and have started each with a case and doing a fabulous job! 
Thanks to   LettyAnn Feltshank  for joining my team. She is a great GAL who will inspire everyone, especially those who have teenagers, her favorite children.  
Thank you to  Vinnie for stepping up to take on a  returning case and closing on two of his cases successfully.
 Kudos to Cynthia Webb, who is a new GAL, but has managed to take on multiple cases with enthusiasm that is greatly appreciated.
Lupe Mayorga:  For always being there for the kids and having great organizational skills.  
Jennifer Goodfield:  Advocating for a Pinellas case.  Thank you Jenn for staying on top of this!  
Pamela Young:  Always getting me her reports in a timely manor.  
Carol Ninteau:  Advocating for kids that have out of county cases and working with the families in a kind and professional manner.
Al Ferraro has been consistently visiting a child with significant developmental disabilities for five years this month! I can always count on Al to get his visit done and to report on a number of other children who have been in and out of the foster home. Thanks Al!  
Fran Scerbo is persistent! She keeps digging further and further to gather information about two teen  sisters . The girls have presented a number of behavioral issues and Fran recently learned that there are some  special circumstancse which has been a tremendous help in providing appropriate services!  
Lisa Crandall has shown the same persistence dealing with a very difficult mother who was recently reunified with her two daughters who have special challanges. . Lisa continues to advocate for appropriate services for the girls, which because of scheduling delays and other issues, have taken FOREVER to get arranged!  
Kudos to Patty Smith who didn't hesitate and volunteered to take on a difficult sexual abuse case involving three children and multiple allegations.  
Linda Poulette has been a strong advocate and support for a teenage boy who was recently reunified with his father.  
Welcome new GALs Christina Bedus, Annette Sprude and Rosanne Tomaselli! Thanks for completing your final screen and walking out the door with a case assignment!
Carol Williams for providing such great help for Karen Malo with tasks big and small around the office, freeing up more time for recruiting. *   

Street Beat






One Year
Erika Daniel
Chelsea Moran
Yvonne Flowers

Two Years
Terri Brown
Margaret Neelan
Robert Neelan
Terenycia Little
Kelly Macko
Lauren Dalessio
Chole Wells
Andrea Mason
Alexis Petrosino
Jack Sheppard

Six Years
Ruth Anna Ciana

Nine Years
Margaret "Maggy" Roberts
Carol Conaway
Fourteen Years
Susan O'Connell

One Year
Stephanie Shermeta
Jennifer Quinn
Gordie Jamieson
Binnie Martin
Michelle Arthur
Amanda Schamens
Jessica Stevens
Alexis Turner-Garris
Joselyn Dulberg
Robert Lee
Candice Weaver
Frances Weaver
Ruth Marie Sheaffer
Dala Daniels
Falyn Hahn
Scott (John) Rasbach
Jason Barnard
Stephanie Pletcher
Mary Wold
Marilyn Voreis
Lorrainne Bennett
Gail  Rubinsky
Samantha Simpson
T om Engel
Bert Owens
James Rowe
Aleyda Briceno
Pamela Hughes
Johnathan White
Carol Ninteau
Patricia Dekok
Aleyda Briceno
Marguerite Harvey

Two Years
S haron Sobtik
Loren Dusch
Lisa Giannone
Shari Silk
Catherine Henry
Sandy Anthony
Mariela Tassone
Chelsea Ferraiuolo
Amy Foster
Latrina Hale
Shelly Ross
Sean Haskins
Tabitha Haskins
Yvonne Wisley
Beth Ann Von Eigen
Carik Von Eigen
Caitlin Constantine
Patty Brink
Rachaek Cyrrab
Patricia Haddad

Three Years
Jean Cooley
Patricia Nash
Elizabeth Doheny
Dale Luttman
Judith Brunner
Chuck MaGee
Sheri Johnson
Regina Melore
Rev Pam O'Brien
Arthur "Charlie" Kern
Myra Harmon
Cindy Johnson
Donna Steger

Four Years
Pamela Young
Erica Lettie
Christine Fitzpatrick
Larry Walters
Susan Knight
Wendy Grassi
Barbara Henderson
Kay Goodwin
Melody Neil
Amy Weinhofer
Tina Paquette
Rachel Gross
Sylvia Williams
Lillian McCabe
Linda Zolper

Five Years
John Killinger
Laurie Lahkani
Michelle Bauman, Esq
Kay Brulo
Gordon Russell
Angela Patrick

Six Years
Lynn Romano

Seven Years
Adam Carozza
Susan Harris
Ray Kulla
Steven See
Ben Amy Braun

Eight Years
J an Jameson
Maria Palis
Carol Garnett
Rita Becchetti
Linda Medeiros

Nine Years
Carol Allen
Jeffery Shelton
John "Fred" Theonen

Twelve Years
Jean Marteski




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.

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

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

Director's Directions

M ariela Ollsen, Esq. Circuit Director
It has been such an honor meeting many of the volutneers and staff in both counties in our Sixth Circuit in this last month as your Circuit Director.  I am so impressed with the great advocacy and teamwork that I have seen and heard about. I would like to thank each of you and look forward to meeting even more of you over these next few months    

A few years ago, our Volunteer Task Force brought you a short survey to garner feedback from you about your Guardian ad Litem experience.   We are looking to update that survey.  Please participate by clicking here:  

I am pleased to announce that Governor Scott has reappointed Executive Director Alan Abramowitz  to continue to lead the State of Florida Guardian ad Litem Program. Mr, Abramowitz said in response to his reappointment, "I am honored to serve Governor Scott, my professional colleagues and especially our 10,000 active volunteers as Florida Guardian ad Litem Office's Executive Director.   I have the best job in the world because every day there is a chance to make the life of an abused or neglected child better."

Since Alan's initial appointment six years ago, the GAL Program has grown from 5,000 to more than 10,000 volunteers now representing the best interests of over 25,500 of Florida's most vulnerable children. Under his leadership the GAL Program has also championed legislation focused on the best interests of children being adopted, promoted normalcy in the lives of foster children, worked to enable teens in foster care to get driver licenses, and developed training to improve legal advocacy statewide, including specific initiatives on advocacy for children with disabilities.       

Sixth Circuit Vital Statistics:
As of  February 2016

Children in Dependency   
Of those without a GAL
Case Volunteers
744 (>)
Transportation Approved Volunteers
   247 (>)
GAL Best Practices

During the course of your case, always make every effort to observe some parental visits. Whether the visits are supervised or unsupervised, the GAL observes the interactions between the parents and the children. Report your observations to your CAM.

Once case plan tasks are initiated, GALS should invite parents to sign releases so that independent confirmation can be obtained. It is a good idea to bring releases with you to Court so that you can meet with your parents prior to or after the Court hearing. Remember that a blue pen is needed when filling out the releases so come prepared bring a blue pen with you. If a witness is needed to sign on the release, GAL, you may sign as the witness.

CHILD VISITS: Once a visit has been completed, enter your notes into OPTIMA and/or email your CAM timely in the event that there are issues to be addressed. Your visit notes are worth their weight in gold and provide the guidance needed to assure that the child's voice is being heard. A child may be in need of additional services, there may be academic concerns, or issues regarding parental visits. With the information you provide, your CAM can act quickly to assure that all issues are addressed.

GAL COMMUNICATION: If a GAL is unable to visit due to travels, illness, or scheduling problems, advise your CAM so that your CAM can seek out a GAL to fill in for that particular visit. If GALS are able to do so, try to schedule visits prior to the 23rd or 24th of the month to allow time for a visit in the event that the caregiver or the GAL is unable to keep the scheduled appointment.
Legal Forum


Jepera Hvidberg, Esquire
Best Interest Attorney, Pasco County  

Pinellas and Pasco Counties were recently awarded a federal grant to start a Dependency Drug Court program. The dependency drug court in Pinellas County is designed to serve 105 people and in Pasco County is designed to serve 50 families. The program is voluntary, and one or both parents can agree to participate. Dependency Drug Court involves a treatment plan, drug testing and more frequent appearances in court so the presiding Judge can gauge the parent's progress. In Pinellas County, a drug court case can originate in any of the 4 dependency sections but if selected the entire case will be reassigned to Judge Patrice Moore. In Pasco County, Judge Sean Crane will be the presiding Judge. 

A Treatment-Based Approach 
A parents' participation in Dependency Drug Court is voluntary, however, once a case is accepted by Dependency Drug Court, the completion of drug court will be added as a case plan task. The participating parent(s) will be evaluated by a licensed treatment provider. The treatment provider will make a recommendation to the judge that may range from outpatient meetings twice a week to a six-month residential program. Treatment is projected to be completed within a twelve (12) month period. The parents do not incur costs for their treatment. Eligible parents will be offered treatment in the program until the designated treatment slots are reached. Dependency Drug Court will have recovery coaches available at all hearings to meet with the parents. The recovery coaches can assist the parents with obtaining services, and can help the parents with overcoming obstacles to get the needed services. 

Court Hearings
Frequent court status checks will be held so the staff can closely monitor a parent's progress. The parent's court-appointed attorney, the Assistant State Attorney and the Best Interest Attorney are not required to be at all of the status hearings that only address the parent's treatment. If the Dependency Drug Court hearing is regarding the children, the notice of hearing will specifically be designated as a 'drug court status hearing with change affecting child(ren),' and all the attorneys on the case will attend those hearings as well as Judicial Review and Permanency Review hearings. 

Rewards and Sanctions 
At the hearings, all information is presented to the judge, who then either rewards a parent for the progress made, or sanctions them for failing to meet all of their designated goals, such as the one requiring a participant to remain drug-free. The judge can increase the length or intensity of the treatment program, increase court appearances, increase drug testing, modify visitation, order a new assessment and treatment regimen, or remove the parent from the Dependency Drug Court. If the parent is unsuccessful in completing Dependency Drug Court, the case could result in a termination of parental rights petition being filed. If a parent is doing well, the judge may increase and/or expand the visitation with the child, reduce the number of times a parent has to appear in court, advance the parent to a different treatment phase, or reunify the child and the parent. Once a parent successfully completes the recommended drug treatment program, and remains drug-free for 90 days afterwards, the parent can graduate from Dependency Drug Court.    

     Recruitment Corner

by Karen Malo, Pinellas Community Outreach Coordinator

We are working harder than ever at recruiting more GALs. As Suzanne Parker mentioned last month, we received a grant from National CASA to help with recruitment in Pasco. As a result, we have also been asked to increase our goal by the end of September to 878 so we need you to help us to think of ways to spread the word now more than ever so we can recruit more great GALS in both counties. With our first trainings under our belt and trainings up and running for February we are well on our way. We continue to do Information Sessions in Pinellas County on Thursdays at 11 AM and 6 PM and in Pasco on Tuesdays at 10:30 AM and 6PM. We have also added monthly webinars in Pinellas on the 2nd Tuesday of every month from 12-1 and in Pasco there is one scheduled for March 8th from 12-1 for those who cannot attend the regular informat i on sessions. Even though the New Year is already over a month old we can still make resolutions with regards to our GAL work by helping us here in the Recruitment Department to spread the word about the need for advocates through social media. We are asking each one of you to help us reach more potential volunteers in 2017. One thing you could resolve to do is as easy as clicking the button below. If you are on Facebook to make sure you visit go on like, follow and share the Guardian ad Litem Foundation's Facebook page with your friends. You never know who your friend's friends are and one of them may make another great GAL! You can help us reach our goal in recruitment simply by doing this. As of January we are at 95%  percent of our goal to having 795 volunteers for the end of June(we are at 744 currently) and our goal is to reach 878 by the end of September so help us reach 100% this year so click away!.

                    Click here to to visit and like us on Facebook

Special thanks to GALs Lisa Richards, Fran Abilock, Kathy Konkle, Norma Stallions, Linda Zolper and Phyllis Vitale for their help in to recruit volunteers. These volunteers are always spreading our message and thinking of ways to assist us with recruitment whether by sharing their infectious love of this very challenging yet rewarding work, representing us at events in the community or .again simply by posting things about the Guardian ad Litem Program to their Facebook page. If you would like to invite us to speak at a meeting please contact me at karen.malo@gal.fl.gov or 727-464-6147 or larnelle.scott@gal.fl.gov or 727-834-3493. So, here's to another successful year of helping the children in our community!

From left to right GAL, Phyllis Vitale , Penny Gilmour, Karen Malo,, Judy Johnston, Rita Jacobsen, Marcia Fouts. These ladies went door to door posting flyers to all of the residents in the Lake Seminole Country Club area inviting them to a luncheon to learn about Guardian ad Litem on February 13th to learn about how they can help. Thanks ladies!
 Pinellas GAL of the Month 
Denise Reiley

I sincerely believe, and proudly proclaim, that in their roles as advocates for our most vulnerable, each and every one of my Guardians are unique; all are dedicated, and commonly go above the "call of duty" in some fashion or another.  They certainly take the term "Guardian" to heart.
As a form of "esprit de corps" we have adopted the moniker of the Black Sheep Squadron for ourselves, and like the famed Black Sheep Squadron of real life, whose dedication, efforts, and sacrifices were heroic, laudable, and legendary, so is each and every member of my Guardian volunteers...my Black Sheep Squadron, and yes, I am quite proudly possessive of them!
I confess that recognizing one of my "Black Sheep" over the others is akin to asking me which one of my children I prefer, a question that is inherently unanswerable, as my Black Sheep are all Aces in my book, but nonetheless, as I have to, I would today like to recognize Denise Riley as the Guardian of the Month.
This Black Sheep, despite holding down a demanding full time job, and caring for the special needs of her own child, still makes time to engage in all of the activities of a Guardian ad Litem. Denise accepted a very difficult case, a case that would have freighted away someone that did not possess her faith, spirit and courage.  A case that has been fraught with disappointments and frustrations from the onset, yet despite the setbacks she has soldiered on and remained dedicated to her child.
Denise finds time to visit her child at the hospital, including a few overnights stay at the hospital (as so the child would not be alone), the child's various placements, both locally and out of circuit, and at times on short notice.  She has written reports of all manner, attended seemingly endless and countless staffings, hearings, advocacy reviews, and at times, also on short notice as well (whew...).  Denise has met with the Case Managers, parents, therapists, physicians, nurses, hospital and health care provider agencies, as well as the proverbial butcher, baker and candlestick maker, all in order to gather relevant information so that she can provide sound advocacy for her child.
Denise has selflessly traveled to multiple counties at her own expense, during her work days (undoubtedly making her workdays exceedingly long as well), and on her days off too.  The adage of no rest for the weary certainly applies to Denise.  Yet despite frustrations, hurdles, and setbacks, not to mention certainly large loggings of her car's odometer, she has, and continues to stay the course.
This Black Sheep certainly flies high cover, ready to swoop down and pounce on anything that would interfere or threaten the best interest of her child, and both her child, and I are fortunate to have Denise as one of my Black Sheep, as my Guardian ad Litem volunteer.  Fly on Denise!!!

Alejandro "Alex" Diaz
Child Advocacy Manager
Pasco GAL of the Month 
Joanne Bryan

Joanne has been a Guardian ad Litem for just over 5 years and she has represented
pproximately 30+ children.  Joanne currently represents 3 children and has recently been released from several that she completed.  She is a field coach and has assisted at least the last 6 of my new volunteers.  She has done a fabulous job and always goes above and beyond the call of duty!  Joanne has been traveling to NPR from Lutz for a couple of years now about every week just to help me in the office with filing, data input, file copying, and anything else I can think of!  I depend on her tremendously to assist me with the tons of paperwork and documentation that we receive and post daily.  She has traveled outside of the county and extensively in the county to visit and represent children. Joanne also is part of the assessment tam that does the initial child visits when we are first appointed to a case.  She is extremely dedicated, professional, diligent, and thorough.  All of her reports, whether assessments, visits, or court reports, are high quality.  Joanne is always in control of her cases and in attendance when needed at hearings, parent visits, and staffings.  She keeps me up to date on assigned children at all times, as needed and know when something needs immediate attention. 

Joanne comes to us from Illinois and is the mother of an adult son.  She holds a Master's Degree in Education and is retired from USF.  She indicated that she initially became involved with the Guardian Program to do something productive and challenging in her retirement, as well as something that will benefit society.  She was appalled by the number of children who need representation in the court system and wanted to contribute however she could and do what she could to help.  She had been thinking about becoming a Guardian for several years, but did not actively pursue becoming a part of the program until a few years after retiring.  She felt that if she can make a difference in even one child's life, she will have accomplished her goal.  She has been approved as a GAL transporter for 4 years and is an E-GAL due to her education background. 

She stated that her most memorable moment was when she went to visit her first child for the first time.  She was being cared for by her paternal grandparents after suffering life threatening abuse and being removed from her mother.  The child was only seven months old, but she went to Joanne immediately and they played on the floor during the entire visit.  In spite of the abuse the child had suffered, she was still a trusting and happy child.   Joanne feels that her most disheartening moments are seeing parents who have beautiful children, but who are unable to care for them properly, usually because of their reliance on drugs.  She worries about their futures. 

Thank you so much, Joanne, for all you do!  You have definitely made a difference in the lives of many children!  

Laurie Rosati
Child Advocacy Manager
Poet's Corner
The little bird pops out every quarter hour saying COO COO. 
The little bird in the GAL clock pops out saying THANK YOU! 

We are grateful to our GALS for your so valuable observation. 
Without your visits and your input, there is no representation. 

The coo-coo clock ticks THANK YOU GALS as you work every day. 
You check, you check again and again; all options you weigh. 

The GAL Coo-Coo Clock will always continue on tick tock, tick tock. 
AS GALS continue on too; THANK YOU, says our GAL clock! 

By Diana Aboussir Child Advocacy Manager

Karen Malo,
Pinellas Community
Outreach Coordinator

Last month I shared with you that I had received some news on my case that was not what I had hoped for and I had to remind myself to take a deep breathe and accept the outcome. Well this month I received some great news and it looks like the boys are one step closer to permanency with the biological mother surrendering rights so that the caregiver can adopt the children. She was finally able to make the right decision for both her and her children's future. We are now one step closer to permanency for these two very deserving boys! The night before I got this news I woke up in the middle of the night and started thinking about all of the things I needed to do and I had to force myself to lay in bed and count my breathes in and out until I was finally able to settle myself back to sleep. Things may get crazy but trying to find one positive thing each day to focus on helps me. Whether it is a compliment from a co- worker, something I learned about myself that day or checking one more thing off of my To Do list. Sometimes we get so busy and overwhelmed we forget to acknowledge all of the small things that eventually add up to be big things in the long run. It's okay to feel stressed because when something good happens we can really appreciate it. I hope you take time in your day EVERYDAY and especially at the end of a hectic day to find one thing positive and focus on that for a while and above all keep doing small things and the children you advocate for will benefit despite all of the other things going on.
Case Manager of the Month
  Honoring Our ECA Case Managers
Congratulations and THANK YOU for your work on behalf of dependent children and their families!
January-Elaine Denton from YFA East.  Elaine sees GALs as helpful and wants GALs on her cases.  She will answer you in a timely fashion, ensure referrals are given to the children and families and her wealth of experience shows in everything she does. 
February-  Megan Van Etten from YFA West.  She returns e-mails, phone calls timely. She takes the time to ensure that relative caregiver funds are already in place or the application has been made so caregivers don't have to struggle financially.  Referrals for the children usually already in place or being researched. She has credibility with teens and they seem to appreciate her genuine concern and interest in what is going on with them.  Foster parents and caregivers speak highly of her. She is very responsive to the needs of the children. Thank you for doing such an excellent job communicating and ensuring that our children and families needs are met!
Kasie Boehm from Directions.
Kassie is  very cooperative and a professional case manager. She knows her cases and has worked well with the guardins ad litem. She does a great job on her cases - she is thorough and reliable. She is  outstanding in every way and she is an excellent communicator.