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November 1, 2013

GALS being sworn in
FOURTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT JUDGE DAVID GOODING swore in a new class of 75 guardians ad litem in front of the Duval County Courthouse in October. Statewide, the Guardian ad Litem Program depends on 8,624 certified volunteers and an additional 962 non-certified volunteers who do not carry cases to help fulfill its mission to represent the best interests of children in the dependency court system. GALs work directly with children who have been removed from their parents’ custody due to allegations of neglect, abuse, or abandonment. Guardians become familiar with the child and the child’s case in order to make recommendations to the dependency judge to help ensure a safe, caring, stable, and permanent home environment. Statewide GAL Executive Director Alan Abramowitz has proposed a three-year strategy to reach full representatation of all children in the dependency system, as mandated by Florida Statutes but never realized. During FY 2014-15, he said, the GAL Program will place a priority on reaching 100 percent of all children in out-of-home care, and children on post-placement supervision after reunification. This will bring the program to representing 80 percent of all children in the dependency court system. To achieve this goal, Abramowitz is asking the Legislature for $6 million to hire 106 new positions that support the work of the volunteer GALs. For FY 2015-16, Abramowitz will ask for 78.25 new FTEs and another 76.25 FTEs in FY 2016-17. The three-year goal is to finally achieve 100 percent representation of all children under court supervision.

[Revised: 12-14-2014]