Tuesday, Nov 15, 2016
This month, we celebrate Thanksgiving and I am so thankful for the volunteers who tirelessly serve to represent abused, abandoned, or neglected children here in Pinellas and Pasco Counties. We also celebrate National Adoption Month. Here in Florida, at any given time, there are approximately 750-800 children waiting to find their forever homes. The Guardian ad Litem Foundation of Tampa Bay envisions a world where every child has a safe and permanent home with the opportunity to thrive and we are proud each year to sponsor the Judge Irene Sullivan Adoption Advocacy Award. This year, we honor Skip Milos. Skip is a volunteer photographer for the Heart Gallery and his work has helped highlight dozens of children and has reached families on a national scale through his work with the Tampa Bay Rays.
While there is only one "winner", all of our children win when volunteers advocate for their needs and shepherd them through the tulmutous waters of the dependency system. I was so touched by two of the stories of our Guardian ad Litem volunteers, I wanted to share them with you. There are many paths to permanency and success in each case looks different but these stories exemplify the work our volunteers do every day to ensure a safe a permanent home for the children they serve.
Tina Hohlfeld, GAL Volunteer for 2 Years
“I was Chosen, I was Wanted, I was Cherished, I grew in their Hearts, I was the Missing Piece, I was Loved, I was Adopted.” (Unknown). Guardian ad Litem Volunteer Advocate Tina Hohlfeld, was also chosen, cherished, and became the missing piece for D. and A., who had been removed from their parents, reunited, removed again, and reunited briefly again. Not only did Tina work hard with the children from 2014 through adoption, but she also worked closely with the parents achieving reunification with the mother for a very brief time. Tina followed the children’s progress closely at school, paid careful attention to their medical needs, and advocated fiercely when A. was in need of dental attention. In addition, Tina made sure the children participated in sports and activities in which they were interested. When a match was made, Tina was in contact with the prospective adoptive parents, monitoring the children’s progress and the dynamics of the family as time moved forward. It was a great day for the family and for Tina Hohlfeld when D. and A. were recently adopted and were able to “come home and stay home forever!”
Linda Medeiros, GAL Volunteer for 7 Years
Guardian ad Litem Volunteer Linda Medeiros was appointed in 2012 to baby girl S.C. and her brother G.C. age 2, after removal from parents. Linda was very supportive of the mom, who worked hard to complete drug treatment and achieve stability to reunify. Sadly, mom relapsed and the children were returned to care. When the parental rights were terminated, Linda identified a responsible, compassionate relative for consideration as an adoptive home. For 2 years, Linda visited the children, followed up on all their needs, prepared court reports, and worked closely with foster parents and case managers until finally the children were moved to their cousin’s home for adoption. During transition, Linda followed up to ensure services were in place for the kids. The adoption occurred in 2014 but the story does not end there. In May 2015, a new baby sister, A.C. was sheltered and Linda stepped up for the kids again. The child was placed with a grandparent. Linda spent a great deal of time visiting A.C., getting to know the grandparent, observing/facilitating sibling/family visits, encouraging communication, and considering best interest recommendations for A.C.’s “forever” home. Linda supported placing the child with her siblings. Linda monitored A.C. very closely after placement with the cousin and her siblings. She ensured strong communication during an emotional time between competing family members. Finally in August 2016, A.C.’s adoption was finalized with her siblings. Four volunteer years, three children, one forever family.
My heart is full of gratitude for the service of each and every one of our volunteers that works to make sure our children have safe and permanent homes with the opportunity to thrive. This volunteer work is often not easy, but the rewards are great.
"Being a GAL is the most rewarding experience I've ever had; it is not a sad job, but a very important one. You get to be the voice of children that have lived most of their lives in silence; you get to advocate for their rights, and make sure they're fulfilled. I get paid in smiles, hugs, gratitude, and the peace of mind that a little boy or a teenage girl is now smiling in the safety of a home. It is our responsibility as adults to create a safe world for our children. Guardians ad Litem are hope, strength, and safety for a young person. Be someone's hero today. Do your part in making this a world a better one. Wake up every day knowing that somewhere there is child that will always be grateful for your existence. GALs do not get paid because their job is invaluable".
-- Alaina Machado, Volunteer GAL (Miami-Dade)
If you would like to learn more about becoming a volunteer child advocate or volunteering for the Foundation, contact AmyF@galf6.org or 727-464-6528. The children are waiting!