Fighting for our children: Guardian ad Litem Program looking for volunteers

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla.--- The Guardian ad Litem Program is the force on the First Coast to help our children. Guardians with the program work directly with judges and children who've been removed from their parents custody due to allegations of abuse, or abandonment.

However, the program is dealing with a major shortage of volunteers. Right now, there are approximately 1,372 children under supervision of the Florida Department of Children and Family on the First Coast. The Guardian ad Litem program is appointed to represent 82.2% of those children, or 1,136 children. However, with the shortage of volunteers, only 63% of those children are being represented by volunteers. Due to the shortage, staff members with the program are temporarily stepping in to help.

Melinda Brown is the 4th Circuit Director for the Guardian Ad Litem program.

She says, "If we can't get more volunteers, we would probably have to ask the judges to stop appointing us to cases, which we do not want to do, because all of these children need a voice."

April is child abuse prevention month and volunteer appreciation month. In light of that, First Coast News is hosting a phone bank for the Guardian Ad Litem Program on April 8.

Looking to volunteer?

- On average, a volunteer drives about 87 miles per month to visit and transport their child or children based on a survey of volunteer driving habits.

- Cases last on average, about 12 months

- Most child advocates spend about 8 hours per month working on their case(s).

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