Abused and Neglected children have suffered from extended exposure to violence and deprivation before they are removed from their homes and placed in child protective services.

Children need and deserve a voice in the system that rules their lives. Their only chance of having that voice is if there is a guardian ad-Litem speaking for them in child protection.

There are CASA (guardian ad-Litem) offices near you. If you have a friend that would like to be a volunteer voice & help a child send this to them;


This article out of Florida captures my sentiment well;


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More volunteers needed for children in court system
The Guardian ad Litem program will hold a three-day training session for volunteers next week

Posted February 3, 2010 at 8:19 p.m.

Ever since social services workers took 12-year-old Rose Douyon and her seven siblings from her Immokalee home due to neglect, Douyon was shuffled through dozens of group and foster homes in Collier, Lee and Pasco counties.

“The house was a mess and there was no food,” said Douyon, now 22, of Fort Myers, referring to her mother’s Immokalee home.

But that didn’t stop her from earning her high school diploma and getting a paralegal degree, which she hopes will land her a job. Douyon eventually wants to be a lawyer and is focusing on family law because she knows the system inside out: She’s lived it.

But if it hadn’t been for her guardian ad litem, the only consistent person in her life since age 14, she knows she wouldn’t have been a foster child success story.

“I believe she changed my life,” Douyon said of Mary Pruchansky, a North Naples retiree who fought for her rights in court. “She’s like my best friend. I still talk to her all the time, every day. It’s like a mother-daughter relationship.”

When social service workers remove a child from a home because of abuse, abandonment or neglect, a guardian ad litem — Latin for “guardian of the law” — is appointed to protect the best interests of a child in the court system.

Douyon “aged out” of foster case at age 18. But there are many more children like her. Some will be adopted, some will return to their parents or relatives, while others are like Douyon.

State reports show there were 30,966 children in the system statewide as of Dec. 31, 2009, and 6,297 had no guardian ad litem. Of the 447 Collier County children, 22 had no guardians ad litem. It’s worse in Lee County, where there were 754 children, 147 without an advocate.

There were 152 guardians ad litem in Collier and 252 in Lee, so having enough is a problem. So the Guardian ad Litem Program in the 20th Judicial Circuit will hold a daytime training session from Feb. 9 to 11 at North Collier Regional Park on Livingston Road. Anyone interested in training can call Connie Sudbrook at 860-0297.

Volunteers work six to 10 hours monthly on their own schedules, meeting with children, foster parents, teachers, caseworkers, writing brief reports for judges, and attending hearings. Since Florida’s program began in 1979, more younger people and men are volunteering, according to Sudbrook, the volunteer recruiter.

“It probably is the most unique volunteer position you can find,” Sudbrook said, estimating at least 80 percent of children are in the system due to parents’ substance-abuse or addictions. “The needs of the child in each case are different, so we’re constantly learning. The longer you do this, the more effective you become.”

“It’s sad at times, but there are also a lot of happy endings,” she said. “We do accomplish a lot and make a difference.”

Lorrie Moore, the case coordinator for the five-county circuit — which also includes Hendry, Charlotte and Glades counties — warns it’s a commitment that takes time, but most stick with it and some have volunteered 10 or 15 years and mentor the new recruits.

“Kids can prevail through whatever they live through,” she said, adding that reunification with parents is the goal, but doesn’t always work. “We really have to look at the whole, big picture. … You have to do what’s in the child’s best interests.”

Pruchansky, who retired from Greenscapes, a landscaping firm she owns with her husband, has volunteered for 10 years and has seen many happy endings and sad stories in the 50 children she’s advocated for.

There was the infant with 19 broken bones, a young girl taken out of her home after she was sexually abused, then placed with her grandparents. Her grandfather then sexually abused her.

Pruchansky’s saddest story?

“The little boy who had to testify against his dad, who tried to kill him,” Pruchansky said, adding that the boy also watched the father stab someone else. “He did see some brutal things.”

Pruchansky, who works mostly in Immokalee, where volunteers are needed, noted: “It really does make a difference in a child’s life. It gives them hope.”

That’s what Pruchansky saw in Douyon, a 14-year-old with behavioral issues.

“Part of it was foster homes that didn’t match her personality,” Pruchansky said. “She and I just bonded. She had issues, but I saw potential. She knew the system wasn’t fair and rebelled against it.”

“She’s a success story,” Pruchansky added. “She didn’t have any family for a long time and I was the only one she had.”

Douyon, a convenience store cashier who is now married, said no one listened until Pruchansky arrived. Before that, she acted out because well-behaved foster children were “forgotten, ignored.”

She hopes other volunteers will help children like her, Douyon said, adding: “As long as you have the heart and mindset to help — and the time because it’s time-consuming — you should do it because it’s an important job.”

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