Last year, a civic engagement project for Leadership Engage class was Guardian ad Litem. The group developed many strategies to increase visibility and volunteer recruitment for this important organization.
Find out what they did below.
1) Explain what is the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program:
The Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program is a state agency that utilizes volunteers to be advocates for the nearly 1,800 children in Palm Beach County that have been victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment and are now a part of the dependency system. These volunteers visit the children once a month to make sure that they are safe in their placement, are getting the services that they need (medical, therapy, educational), and are the voice for these children in court.
The children who GAL volunteers advocate for are the victims of traumatic and emotionally distressing events that occurred in their family. They have been taken from their homes and caregivers and placed in shelters, group homes, fosters families or with relatives. They may have to transfer schools, possibly are separated from siblings and therefore suffer the loss of established friends and social norms. They are also the least represented in the subsequent court cases. In most situations mom has a lawyer, dad has a lawyer, DCF is represented with their attorneys and the GAL attorney is also present. Each volunteer is critical to the case because they get to know the children on a personal basis and can advocate for what is in each child’s best interest.
Children who have GALs in their lives reap huge benefits! They are more likely to be adopted, more apt to receive services, more focused in school and successful in their education, both academically and behaviorally, and they are half as likely to re-enter foster care. Guardians truly help ion changing the trajectory of these children’s lives.
2) Describe the project. Please be specific.
The Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program reached out to the Leadership Palm Beach County Class of 2015 in order to create a community awareness campaign to increase the quality and quantity of volunteers that apply to the GAL program. This civic engagement project was designed with two goals in mind. The first was to create community awareness throughout Palm Beach County for the program itself, the second was to enlist quality individuals to become GAL volunteers.
The project team came up with several ideas to increase visibility and volunteer recruitment including:
A) Analyzed the website and gave digital marketing strategies to increase Internet traffic through social media sites and webpage.
B) Created a survey to target local businesses and corporations about hosting a lunch and learn at their site. This survey generated data on the prior knowledge about the GAL program as well as contact information for other agencies who we may contact.
C) Utilized the jury pool as a resource for providing citizens information on the GAL program and the opportunity to volunteer. The juror summons has also been petitioned to be changed to give jurors the option to donate their check directly to Speak Up for Kids (the 501(c)3 that support the GAL Program), as described in the statute. This means that the juror can check off the option to donate and the check will go directly to Speak Up instead of being sent to the juror, where they are then responsible to then send the check to Speak Up.
3) What can the LPBC community do to support this project in the future?
Continued support by the Leadership Palm Beach County family would be appreciated. The most critical step would be to encourage your workplace to increase their social responsibility by offering employee volunteerism opportunities. We offer a lunch and learn series to spread the word about the importance of the Guardian ad litem program and the various opportunities that we have to get involved. For more information, email Kelly.Kerr@gal.fl.gov.