From being ripped apart from their family and packed into foster homes, thousands of children rely on volunteers to be their champion through the toughest times in their lives.
Those volunteers are called “guardian ad litems.”
Now through the pandemic, the organization is bracing for a huge influx of children who will need your help.
When Brenden Moreland was 8 years old, he and his younger brother James were taken from their family.
The two were separated and placed in different foster homes for eight months.
“He was like a role model in my life who I looked up to,” Moreland said.
When hope started to fizzle, Susan Barnett showed up as their guardian ad litem.
“Our whole agenda as volunteers is just to represent the children and their best interest in court,” Barnett said.
Not long after, Stephanie and Barbara Moreland adopted the two.
Barnett was there every step of the way.
“Our sons would never have been together if it weren’t for her,” Moreland said.
But now the need for volunteers to become guardian ad litems is severe.
“We are going to need volunteers, we need people in our community to step up,” Barnett said.
Jessica Stanfield is the executive director of the 20th Judicial Circuit Guardian Ad Litem Foundation.
Stanfield fears child abuse cases will rise as the pandemic subsides, pushing more children into the packed court system.
“Once they start being seen again; right now they are not going to school, to daycare, going to after school camps, they are not being seen by mandated reporters, so once that starts to happen we will see lots of abuse being reported,” Stanfield said.
For Brenden and James, their guardian ad litem guided them through the tough process of finding their loving forever family.
If you would like to see how you can become a guardian ad item, you can find more information here.
You must be a Florida resident at least 21 years old, and you have to go through the program training.