Written by Sharon Beningfield

Moving Toward Hope

September 26, 2019                                                               Contact:  Tabitha Lambert, Guardian ad Litem Circuit Director 813-272-5110

“Moving Toward Hope”

Tampa, FL – A garbage bag. It’s handed to you and you’re told to put all your belongings in it. Do it quickly and then get ready to leave. That’s the scenario many children face in the foster care system, and it can be one that is faced several times in a short time span. To bring attention to the thousands of children in the Tampa Bay area seeking a permanent, loving home, several groups came together to create a public service video, Moving Toward Hope.

To heighten awareness of the children hoping for adoption, and reach out for advocates to encourage and speak for foster children, a collaborative effort was created, and funding secured through a grant from the Hobbs Foundation. The Heart Gallery of Tampa, Voices for Children (supporter and partner of the Guardian ad Litem program in Hillsborough), and No Off Switch productions developed a visual way to speak to the community. The multiple placements, and the hope, of these children can be seen at www.movingtowardhope.org

Children enter the foster care system after having been abused, abandoned or neglected. Hillsborough County has more children in the dependency system than any other part of Florida, with the combined count of Pinellas and Pasco Counties following as a close second. It’s a race that area agencies would love to fall behind in.

“We were in need of an urgent and captivating message to draw attention to our brave children waiting in foster care with hopes of finding their forever family,” said Heart Gallery of Tampa Executive Director Amanda Page-Zwierko. “The partnership of the Heart Gallery, Voices for Children, and No Off Switch, along with the generosity of the Hobbs Foundation, has produced a quick, but lingering message about our children,” added Tabitha Lambert, Circuit Director, Hillsborough County Guardian ad Litem Program. The video is supported by a targeted digital campaign which has already brought in new interest to adoption orientations and Guardian ad Litem information sessions.

 

Heart Gallery of Tampa raises awareness of waiting foster children, engages the community in their welfare, and secures permanent, loving adoptive families. This is often done through video profiles which No Off Switch productions has made possible for many years. The Guardian ad Litem program and Voices for Children train and support advocates to encourage children and provide a voice for them in court. The Hobbs Foundation promotes social responsibility by providing funding opportunities to non-profit organizations supporting abused, abandoned and neglected children in the Tampa Bay community.

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Written by yvonne.marrone

September 2019 Newsletter

The Guardian Globe
13th circuit GAL Program
A NOTE FROM OUR DIRECTOR, TABITHA LAMBERT
Hello Volunteers!
As a Guardian ad Litem, our role is to advocate for children’s best interests.
Of course, a vital part of that role is being well informed and knowledgeable
about the children and families that we work with. The most important part is
making sure that we are visiting our kids monthly. Without visiting our kids, it’s
nearly impossible to advocate in and outside of the courtroom for the child’s best
interests. Of course, you will recall your initial GAL training where we also talked
about the importance of documenting the visits in Optima!!
Optima was recently updated to include new contact methods, so be sure that you are accurately reflecting how you contacted your child! Now, the contact methods include:
Face to Face (Child Not Present or Child Present), Email, Phone, Written, Text Message, and Video Call (Child Not Present or Child Present). These updates will ensure that we have an accurate record of the contacts you are making throughout your case.  We all know that plans change and things happen, so if something comes up and you are not able to visit your kids, please let your CAM know right away so they can make other arrangements. Visiting our kids is really the best part of the job!

Thank you for all of your help in making sure that we provide excellent advocacy for our kids!

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Written by yvonne.marrone

July 2019 Newsletter

Need to knows for every Volunteer Child Advocate to help you make a difference.

  • Court Hearings Made Simple
  • School Supply Kick Off with the Buccaneers
  • Yard Signs are Available NOW!

All of this and more can be found in our July 2019 Newsletter.

Don’t forget to check out this great video, Moving Toward Hope.   The video is a collaborative effort between Voices for Children, The Heart Gallery of Tampa Bay and The Guardian ad Litem Program.

http://www.movingtowardhope.org/

http://www.vfcgal.org

July 2019

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Written by yvonne.marrone

March 2019 Newsletter

Want to know what is happening?  Check out all the latest news in the Newsletter!

Being a Volunteer Child Advocate is hard work!  Our Staff appreciates all you do each and every day, you make coming to work an adventure!  Thanks for thinking outside the box and wanting better for the children you work with!

March 2019

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Written by yvonne.marrone

February 2019 Newsletter

Don’t miss out on any of this great information!  You are making a difference for the children that you are advocating for and we couldn’t do it without you!!

February 2019

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Written by yvonne.marrone

Why I Love Being a Guardian ad Litem – February Press Release

February 12, 2019 Contact: Tabitha Lambert,
Guardian ad Litem Circuit Director
813-272-5110

Why I Love Being A Guardian ad Litem

Tampa, FL – You can make a lifelong difference for a child in the foster care system, and discover a volunteer experience you’ll love. Jerry Denney, Guardian ad Litem Volunteer Child Advocate for 3 years, said it was a little daunting “…learning how much need there is to help children in the dependency system. But it was also encouraging to see how I can have an impact by identifying services and the needs of a child. What some may consider minor changes can have a major effect on a child’s life. And the love and appreciation that comes with this experience is the most rewarding compensation one could ask for.”

Our volunteers range from college students to retirees and all ages between. They come from a variety of backgrounds and professions, but all seem to bring the same focus, helping children in need. Often the Guardian ad Litem is the one consistent adult figure in the child’s life.

“I know it sounds simple,” Volunteer Child Advocate Erin Mollura says, “but I love that I get to make a real, definable difference in the lives of the children I work with. I love knowing that even if they don’t remember my name or face when their case is closed, the work we ALL do as a team will mean something.” A Guardian ad Litem will visit with and get to know a child, research what services the child may need, and advocate for the child’s best interest with reports to the court. Statistics show children with a Guardian ad Litem Volunteer Child Advocate do better in school, receive more services, and spend less time in the system.

Hillsborough County has more children in the dependency system than any other county in the state. Thirteenth Circuit’s Guardian ad Litem Program Director Tabitha Lambert says the need for volunteers to advocate for these children is great. “Many of our volunteers have been with us for years,” says Lambert. “While this can be a challenging and sometimes frustrating experience, those who keep coming back for another child tell us they love what they’re doing and a child’s smile makes it all worthwhile.”

Information sessions are held every Thursday in various parts of the county to answer questions about the Guardian ad Litem Program and what volunteers do. For locations and times and to learn more, call (813) 272-5110 or visit www.galtampa.org.

###Feb 2019 Press Release Why I Love Being A Guardian ad Litem

Written by yvonne.marrone

December 2018 Newsletter

Here are some exciting highlights from 2018:

 Increased our total number of volunteer child advocates to 747
 Certified an average of 17 new volunteers per month resulting 192 new volunteer child advocates for           the year
 Represented a total of 3,277 children
 Increased percentage of representation to 74% of children having a GAL
 Received an additional $25,000 in our county budget thanks to Commissioner and GAL Sandy                  Murman
 Created a new website and a new PSA thanks to grants from the Children’s Board and support from          Complete Spectrum
 Created a GAL Packet for all volunteers to use and stay updated
 Implemented new training, in-service, and brown bag lunch topics
 Participated in new marketing strategies to include:
Spirit FM Radio, Television ads, Newspaper ads, Bus Shelter Posters, Bus
Ads, and more!
 Grew to 70 staff members
 Created a Volunteer Liaison position to be available for volunteers
 Established some support groups for volunteers in 3 locations in the county
 Helped 1,025 children find permanency through Adoption, Reunification, or Permanent
Guardianship

 

December 2018

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Written by yvonne.marrone

November 2018 Newsletter

We also celebrated our first GAL-iday Open House on Wednesday, 12/5! We’ve never done an event like this before and our staff really went all out to make this a special event for our volunteers and our community partners. Thank you to everyone who stopped by, wandered through the decorated hallways of the GAL office, enjoyed some treats and company, and who voted for your favorite theme! Who did you vote for? (Winner announced at the bottom of the page!)

November 2018 final

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Written by yvonne.marrone

Tabitha Lambert, GAL Program Director shares need for more volunteers

November is a month filled with reminders about being grateful, and to add to that November is also National Adoption Month!  So many children make the final step into the forever families during this month here in Hillsborough County as well as across the state and country.

http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/letters/sundays-letters-guardian-ad-litem-advocates-for-neglected-children-20181117/

Adoption November 2018

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