Orange County attorneys have independently provided Guardian ad Litem (GAL) services for abused, abandoned, and neglected children on a pro bono basis since the early 1970s. In 1978, when the State of Florida mandated the appointment of Guardians ad Litem for children in all cases of abuse or neglect, statewide efforts were initiated to develop a formal GAL Program. The State of Florida proposed a model program that placed a lay person in the GAL position. That model was accepted and is currently utilized throughout the state of Florida, except in Orange County.
Our local judiciary and the various social service agencies that worked with abused children in Orange County pledged to continue with our model, utilizing a licensed attorney to serve as GAL. 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. In addition, lay citizens (Volunteer Advocates for Children, or VACs) from our community who pledged to serve abused and neglected children were trained to work along with the GAL attorney (upon request) so that each child served had the best possible combination of representation and advocacy available.
This unique and most impressive pairing of talent has served the children of Orange County well. Administered through the Legal Aid Society, over 400 volunteers donate their time to represent the best interests of 1,400 Orange County children in need.