More than 600 abused and neglected children are currently involved with our Citrus and Hernando County courts. Most of these children are below the age of 12 and have been removed from their parents due to alcohol or drug addiction.
A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is a trained volunteer appointed by the court to advocate on behalf of the child. The GAL becomes familiar with the child’s case and makes recommendations to the judge to ensure they grow up in a safe, stable and permanent home. Research has shown that when a dependent child is assigned to a GAL volunteer, they spend less time in foster care and do better in school. They are more likely to receive the services they need to overcome their circumstances and more likely to acquire the skills to succeed in life.
Pam Gary is a GAL volunteer in Citrus County and states, “My life is full and complete because of the program. I started 26 years ago as one of the very first GALs in Citrus County. Lots of people ask me how I can do this kind of work. My response is always the same, how can I not?”
Eligible volunteers must be at least 21 years of age, complete a 30-hour pre-service training program and be cleared of any serious criminal history via a level II criminal background check. Volunteers should expect to spend an average of 10-15 hours a month on a case and most cases last 10-12 months. Support and guidance are provided by an assigned mentor, a volunteer supervisor and a program attorney.
The next GAL training will be held in Lecanto, Citrus County on April 28 and 29, 2017. The training is open to Citrus, Hernando, Marion, Lake and Sumter County citizens. Participants must complete an application and interview process prior to training. Contact Diana Hollwedel at 352-812-6971 or email [email protected] for more information.