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Duarte-Roberts: Florida’s Guardians ad Litem are vital voices for children

Children whose lives are impacted by abuse, neglect or abandonment need help to survive and succeed. What we do for our children today is a valuable investment for generations to come.

Every day Florida’s Guardian ad Litem volunteers work diligently to represent the best interest of our state’s most fragile and vulnerable children. GAL volunteers advocate in court by bringing important information to judges about the children they serve. GALs help guide vital decisions about proper planning and safe placements that meet the individual needs of each child.

The GAL program is managed by a dedicated staff in each of Florida’s 20 judicial circuits who recruit, train and supervise volunteer citizen advocates. Each GAL advocate is a member of a team with a staff supervisor and program attorney who protects the child’s legal interests.

Florida’s GAL Program is now celebrating a monumental milestone, reaching a goal of 10,000 volunteers – the highest in the nation. Despite this great progress, there are many abused, abandoned and neglected children who are now the focus of a dependency court proceeding but do not have the benefit of a GAL advocate. These children need someone who will speak up for them to help pave a positive path to their future.

The Guardian ad Litem Foundation serves as a unified voice of affiliated nonprofit GAL organizations throughout Florida. Together, we build partnerships to provide additional training resources for volunteers. We encourage corporate investments and philanthropic support to normalize the lives of children who live with so much uncertainty.

The GAL Foundation promotes public awareness for volunteer recruitment so we can reach out to guarantee the commitment of more GAL volunteers for children. In addition, we develop statewide partnerships for launching innovative programs to support foster parents and promote adoptions.

We applaud Gov. Rick Scott for his recent reappointment of Alan Abramowitz as executive director of the statewide GAL Program. Under Alan’s six-year leadership tenure, we have seen a doubling of our volunteer advocate force.

We are grateful as well for the support of Florida’s Legislature and their investments in quality GAL staff, skilled best interests attorneys, and for their support of initiatives focused on children being adopted, promoting normalcy in the lives of foster children, and assisting teens in foster care to prepare for higher education.

The public and private sector partnership established by the GAL Program and GAL Foundation is a cost-effective, accountable and truly remarkable source of investment in the future of Florida’s children. It is an investment all Floridians should consider making. I can tell you from personal experience, you will be impressed by the positive return reflected in the faces of the children we serve.

To become a volunteer Guardian ad Litem visit or call 1-866-341-1GAL. To learn about the Guardian ad Litem Foundation’s mission, please visit

Lori Duarte-Roberts serves as volunteer chairperson of the Florida Guardian ad Litem Foundation. She is regional sales manager for Treasury & Payment Solutions for SunTrust Bank.