Guardian Ad Litem: Protecting The Most Vulnerable Children In Broward County

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Voices for Children of Broward County provides funding for developmentally challenged young girl, whose mother died when she was 12-years old, to attend Atlantis Academy in Coral Springs. Thanks to the child's Broward County Guardian ad Litem, Dee Garfinkle, she will start her new school year with all the hope, excitement and optimism of her peers.

The start of a new school year is an exciting time for most children and their parents. It is a time for hope and optimism, a time to make new friends, meet new teachers, and learn new skills. Throughout the school year, parents will meet and get to know their child’s teacher and the school staff. They will help their children with homework and pick them up from afterschool programs. Should a problem or question arise, the parent will be there to advocate for their child. And when the school year is complete, parents and children will celebrate another milestone in the life of a child.

Most of us can relate to the pride parents feel in watching their children successfully navigate a school year. We may even congratulate both on a successful school year. Few of us are equally as supportive of a child whose childhood has been disrupted by being removed from the custody of his or her parent.

The Guardian ad Litem program of Broward County is a partnership of community advocates and professional staff committed to being a powerful voice on behalf of Florida’s abused and neglected children. The Florida Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program currently represents approximately 21,350 children, with the dedication of 8,500 certified volunteers.

On January 11, 2013, Dee Garfinkle became one of those certified volunteers in Broward County. Soon after, she was assigned as the Guardian ad Litem to a developmentally challenged young girl whose mother had died when she was 12-years old. While meeting with professionals from the child’s school, Dee was disheartened to hear negative, and pessimistic language used to describe the child’s intellectual challenges and educational limitations. Her own experience of meeting with the child on a weekly basis told her this young girl had a lot of potential. Dee’s motherly instinct told her the child just needed an educational environment geared for the challenge.

In order to spend even more time with the child, Dee became a certified transporter. She soon discovered that during their one-on-one time, the young girl was learning and progressing. Motivated, Dee set out to find a private school that could provide the type of educational environment the child would need in order to thrive.

Eventually Dee discovered a private school, Atlantis Academy, in Coral Springs that could provide the child with the type of Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) and appropriate learning environment she would need. Dee provided the application to the foster mother and they both completed and submitted the application and accompanied the child to her interview. It wasn’t long before they received the good news; the child had met the criteria for admission and qualified for a scholarship. There was just one obstacle that remained –money to pay the administrative fees.

Dee submitted a request for funding to Voices for Children of Broward County, which gladly paid the fees. Just like other children, this young girl would start her new school year with all the hope, excitement and optimism of her peers thanks to the dedication and commitment of Dee Garfinkle, Guardian ad Litem and its non profit affiliate Voices for Children of Broward County.

Voices for Children of Broward County relies on donations from individuals, organizations and businesses. In return, abused, abandoned and/or neglected children get more than just a friend, they get a powerful voice. Through the fundraising efforts and dedicated support that Voices for Children provides, the Guardian ad Litem Program of Broward County strives to recruit, train and professionally supervise a volunteer Guardian ad Litem for every child who enters the Broward County dependency system.

To obtain more information please call (954) 915-6949 send an email to info@voicesbroward.org or visit voicesbroward.org. Like what Voices for Children of Broward County is doing? Show us at http://www.facebook.com/VoicesBroward.

ABOUT THE GUARDIAN AD LITEM BROWARD COUNTY PROGRAM
A state agency, the Guardian ad Litem Program of Broward County is charged with giving a voice to Broward County’s most vulnerable children, those who have been abused, neglected and/or abandoned. A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is appointed when the court is making decisions that will affect a child's future. Acting as an objective adult, the GAL will provide independent information about the best interests of the child. To learn more about becoming a GAL visit http://www.galbroward.org or call (954) 831-6214.

ABOUT VOICES FOR CHILDREN OF BROWARD COUNTY
Founded in 2011, Voices for Children of Broward County is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness to support the Guardian Ad Litem Program of Broward County, Florida. The Voices for Children organization is committed in its work to provide an advocate for 100% of the abused, abandoned and/or neglected children in Broward County. To learn more or to make a donation, visit http://www.voicesbroward.org or call (954) 915-6949.

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Laurie Menekou
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