GAL’s Need Help, Too

August 31, 2023 | Josae Martin

Why You Should Volunteer to be a Child Advocate

The children that we help here at Legal Aid have experienced some of the most horrific events that no child should ever have to endure. From neglect to different forms of abuse, they’ve been left with scars that could last a lifetime. While some children are excited to return to school to reunite with friends and classmates, others are more excited to escape the horrors faced at home. Children deserve safety, and their innocence should remain pure regardless of their circumstances.

Thanks to the Guardian ad Litem program (GAL), we’ve managed to help hundreds of children find new homes, providing them with the help and stability they desperately need. Orange County attorneys have independently provided GAL services for abused, abandoned, and neglected children on a pro bono basis since the early 1970s. Soon after, it was decided that the Legal Aid Society would serve as the administrative agency for the GAL Program in Orange County, and through the efforts of our local Florida Bar members, we would appoint attorneys to serve as GALs. However, you don’t necessarily have to be a legal expert to help neglected and abused children.

As a Volunteer Advocate for Children (VAC), you will train with a GAL attorney and meet with dependent children to provide additional support. One of the greatest needs for a child is consistency, and through this volunteer program, you can provide this to at least one child. As a VAC, you will relay valuable information to Guardians ad Litem, who advocate for the best interests of these deserving children in and out of court. You will work with the attorney GALs to gather records, interview witnesses, meet the child, and monitor that child’s progress and the court’s orders.

Our volunteers have been able to change the lives of many children, sometimes with the simplest acts of kindness. Some children’ve struggled to obtain basic necessities such as new clothes, socks, and shoes. Our VACs have been able to buy these things and more, especially when the new school year comes around. Some children haven’t had the opportunity to celebrate a birthday or receive a birthday gift. Our VACs have granted birthday wishes for children who will remember those special moments for the rest of their lives. All the little joys of childhood that we once experienced can be given to a child through our volunteer service. Becoming a VAC can change not only the life of one child but yours as well. As an advocate for a child who has been neglected or abused, you can help give them a second chance because their life matters. For more information on becoming a VAC, call 407-841-8310 or visit our website at www.legalaidocba.org.