GAL seeks to serve every child

Karen Blumenthal. Photo available for purchase

Karen Blumenthal.

Published: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 12:08 PM.
The guardian ad litem system is making it easier to volunteer in Franklin County.
A guardian ad litem (GAL), an advocate appointed by the court to represent the interests of an underage person, serve as the voice of the child and may represent the child in court. GALs may assist where a child is removed from a hostile environment, usually by the Florida Department of Children and Families, and in those cases may assist in the protection of the minor child. 
GALs are also appointed in cases where there has been an allegation of child abuse, neglect or juvenile delinquency. In these situations, the GAL represents the best interests of the minor child, which can differ from the position of the state or government agency as well as the interest of the parent or guardian. A guardian ad litem is an officer of the court and in Florida, is usually a volunteer. 
At the Jan. 9 luncheon of the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce, Karen Blumenthal, spokesperson for the GAL program, urged Franklin County residents to consider representing a child. 
She said volunteers are desperately needed. She said guardians ad litem require 30 hours of training in Florida.
Blumenthal said GAL will hold a training session in the county this spring to make it easier for county residents to participate. Once trained, advocating for a child requires about 10 hours a month, much of it spent doing research or speaking with people outside of the courtroom.
Except for court dates, the schedule for GAL volunteers is flexible. Court dates take place in Franklin County.

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