Guardian angels needed for Hillsborough children

08/20/07 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday | Listen to this entire show:

Thousands of abused, neglected or abandoned children in the Tampa Bay area currently don’t have a voice in the court system.

Every year in Hillsborough County and throughout the state, thousands of children are trapped in hopeless homelife situations. Even when they are removed by law enforcement, many of these children have no one to speak on their behalf in court.

That’s why Guardian ad Litem programs exist. A guardian is appointed by the courts to represent the interests of infants, the unborn, or incompetent persons in legal actions.

The term was bandied about frequently during the Terri Schiavo saga several years ago.

But in Florida, the great need is for guardian ad litems to be advocates for foster children.

Melissa Schultz is with the volunteer recruiting division of the Guardian ad Litem program in Hillsborough County. Programs are offered in every county, and on Sept. 4 new training sessions will begin in Tampa. They’ll be held on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for approximately five weeks.

That’s probably the most arduous time commitment one would make to be a guardian ad Litem. A guardian general spends 6-8 hours a month volunteering.

The Guardian al Litem program in Hillsborough County works closely with the advocacy group Voice for Children.

Shultz says that about ¾ of these positions are filled, but they are looking to get 400 volunteers by the end of the year.

For more information, go to Voices for Children.

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