All children in Southwest Florida deserve to be kids

Not every child in Southwest Florida has the luxury of living at home with their parents.

According to Children’s Network of Southwest Florida, as of Dec. 10 there were 1,502 children in our five-county area receiving out-of-home care, which includes foster homes, group homes, treatment centers and temporary or permanent placements with relatives and family friends.

Families that welcome these children into their homes do so with a big heart. They want to provide stability, compassion, guidance and hope to youth who have been abused, neglected or abandoned by their biological parents. It’s a truly selfless act.

Many of these caring individuals have their own children, too, so agreeing to bring another child into their home can present a strain on the family budget. Although foster parents and certified caregivers may receive nominal compensation to pay for food, clothing, transportation and some expenses, it’s nowhere near enough to cover every cost, let alone the extras that make childhood fun.

Through its Children’s Needs Program, the Guardian ad Litem Foundation, 20th Judicial Circuit, Inc., raises money to help pay expenses for children assigned to Guardian ad Litem for experiences such as Happier Birthdays, summer camps, sports participation or a fun outing like a night at the arcade, theme park tickets and much more.

The goal is to help these kids feel better during a very uncertain and stressful time in their lives. These children have been through enough already, so if anyone deserves a little special treatment, it’s them.

Funds raised through the Children’s Needs Program also cover other expenses for children assigned to Guardian ad Litem such as tutoring, academic clubs, school field trips, additional clothing, scout participation, infant items and even a warm, cozy bed. The program is simply about building a sense of normalcy so children can “fit in” with their friends and classmates. Because what every kid truly wants is to to fit in with their peers and feel accepted.

Guardian ad Litem strives to provide children in the court system with a court-certified volunteer advocate (GAL) who helps them navigate the judicial, education and child welfare system while seeking what is in the child’s best interests and a permanent solution. These GAL advocates, who become close with children and their caregivers, may request funds on behalf of the child through the Guardian ad Litem Foundation.

A one-day ticket to Disney World, for instance, costs about $130. Bowling runs as much as $50 an hour to rent a lane. Birthday party packages can cost $15 to $25 per child in attendance, depending on the venue. Tutoring costs add up quickly and a new twin bed with bedding runs around $225. Again, costs add up quickly and temporary caregivers are often willing to open their heart and home, but lack resources for the “extras.”

The children served by our GAL volunteer advocates should be able to celebrate their childhood like everyone else. Through your support of our Children’s Needs Program, either with a one-time or recurring donation, Guardian ad Litem Foundation, 20th Judicial Circuit, Inc. can make that happen.

For more information about donor opportunities, please visit VoicesForKids.org or call 239-533-1435.

About the Author
Roxanne Dyer is executive director of Guardian ad Litem Foundation, 20th Judicial Circuit, Inc., a local nonprofit organization that raises funds to meet the advocacy, health, educational and social needs of abused, neglected or abandoned youth in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties.

The Immokalee Bulletin is published every Thursday.

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