April 6-14 is Children’s Week at our State Capitol, where advocates from all over the state converge on Tallahassee to highlight the needs of children, our brightest hope for the future, and at times, our most vulnerable citizens.
Now in Pasco County there are almost a thousand children, from babies to high school-aged teens, who are under the protection of our courts because those responsible for their care abused or neglected them.
Fortunately, half these children have a volunteer advocate who speaks up for them in court and in the child welfare system. These volunteers ensure that judges and social service agencies are aware of and work for the best interests of the child.
This volunteer advocate is called a guardian ad litem. A guardian ad litem volunteer is a consistent, caring adult during a time of change and transition.
Unfortunately, we still have close to 500 children in Pasco without a volunteer guardian ad litem. That is why during April the Pasco Tax Collectors Office will be utilizing our staff and facilities to raise awareness of the need for more of these volunteers.
The Guardian ad Litem Program is a state-supported and community-based program. When I was a state legislator in Tallahassee, I enthusiastically supported funding expanding the program. I regularly hear moving stories of how these volunteers made a difference in thousands of children’s lives.
A child with a guardian ad litem volunteer receives more help and services, spends less time in foster care, is less likely to be bounced from home to home and does better in school. I urge my fellow citizens to learn more about the Guardian ad Litem program and consider becoming a volunteer child advocate.
Information is available at www.HelpThemNow.com; by calling 866-341-1425; or by visiting one of the four Pasco County Tax Collector offices.
Mike Fasano, a former state representative and senator, is Pasco County tax collector.