The Guardian ad Litem Program
The 11th Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program recruits, trains, supports and supervises court-appointed adults to represent Miami-Dade’s abused, abandoned, and neglected children. The statewide program resulted from statutes mandating the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) – a trained and committed adult who gets to know the child and speaks up for his/her best interests—in all child abuse, neglect, and abandonment proceedings.
“Best interests” include: preservation of the child’s physical safety and emotional well-being, permanent placement in a nurturing home environment that will foster the child’s healthy growth, development and education, and protection from further harm by virtue of the child’s involvement in the legal or child welfare system.
Begun as a grassroots organization in 1981, the 11th Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program is the largest in Florida and is currently one of the most nationally-respected GAL Programs, serving one of the largest urban populations of child abuse, abandonment, and neglect in the country. It is part of a nationwide network of advocacy organizations under the umbrella of the National Court-Appointed Special Advocates Association (NCASAA).
The mission of the Guardian ad Litem Program is to advocate for the best interests of children who are abused, neglected, or abandoned and are involved in dependency court proceedings.
The Guardian ad Litem Program expands upon a web of services to meet the complex needs of the children it serves, including:
Professional, social-work trained advocates are teamed with attorneys and assigned to cases in order to execute the customary duties of a volunteer Guardian ad Litem.
Criminal Court Project
This project protects children who are key witnesses or victims in criminal court proceedings from the traumatic and repetitive nature of the separate legal actions of the criminal court division and juvenile dependency division through consolidated depositions, physical examinations, and consistent court orders.
Kinship Care Project
The Kinship Care Project expands GAL Program representation to children placed by the Dependency Court with caretakers other than parents who have a family relationship bond to the children. The goal of the Project is to make sure that children in kinship placement arrangements receive appropriate services to ensure their stability and protection. It mainly focuses the courts and providers on the unique needs of this overlooked population, brings community volunteers to advocate for families and children, creates and distributes materials that will be helpful to families (handbook), and brings research-based information and practice to the courts.
Legal Advocacy Project
While a GAL volunteer addresses the needs of our children in a holistic fashion, what they achieve for our children is in a court of law. Attorneys are therefore essential to the overall success of the GAL Program as they provide the necessary legal advice and representation to volunteer and staff Guardians Ad Litem to be an effective voice for our children and ensure their best interests are served and protected by the courts.
Transitioning Youth Project
The Transitioning Youth Project works to ensure youth leaving the foster care system have the adult relationships, education, housing, job, and life skills they need to be successful on their own and become productive, healthy adults.