By Amanda Hatfield Anderson
VIERA -- Did you know that more than 30 percent of abused and neglected children in the Brevard County Court system do not have a volunteer guardian in their corner?
A local program is asking Space Coast residents for help to make sure these children have a responsible, compassionate adult to rely on by inviting the community to join them for a baseball game.
On Friday, May 9, the Guardian Ad Litem volunteers and their nonprofit Friends of Children of Brevard will be present at the Brevard Manatees game, as the Sea Cows take on the Daytona Cubs. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
Regular admission rates apply.
"The Guardian Ad Litem program has been active in the state of Florida since 1980, and the local program was started in Brevard County several years later," said Amber Olesen, volunteer recruiter for the Brevard County Guardian Ad Litem program.
A phrase, meaning "guardian for the case," Guardian Ad Litems do not serve as foster parents, legal guardians or anyone expected to provide a home for the child. Rather, these Guardians serve as volunteers for child victims, who find information, investigate and make recommendations and reports based on the child's interests.
"Each year, hundreds of Brevard County children are removed from their homes and placed under the Dependency Court as a result of abuse, neglect or abandonment," Mrs. Olesen said. "Each child under the Dependency Court is assigned a volunteer advocate, called a Guardian Ad Litem. When these guardians have a child with an unmet need, they call upon 'Friends' for help with almost anything -- a bed, a bike, a pair of shoes, field trip fees -- things that bring a sense of normalcy to their disrupted lives."
The mission of Friends of Children of Brevard is to improve the lives of abandoned, abused and neglected children of Brevard County and to support their advocates, volunteers with the Guardian Ad Litem Program.
In order to become a Guardian Ad Litem, the program requires volunteers to be at least 21 years old, complete a Level Two background screening, return an application and complete an interview before taking the 30-hour training class.
"It's also helpful to be a kind and compassionate person," Mrs. Olesen added.
The next Guardian Ad Litem training program is set to take place on Saturday, May 17.
Currently, Mrs. Olesen said that there are 200 active Guardian Ad Litem volunteers.
In order to further promote its mission, while enjoying America's favorite pastime, the Guardian Ad Litem program decided to attend a Manatees game, where its volunteers would be available to educate the public about its mission and answer any questions.
"We decided to ask the Manatees to host a game with us to give back to our volunteers and to promote our involvement in the community," Mrs. Olesen said. "We want everyone to know that the Guardian Ad Litem program is working hard for children and does good things."
In addition to a great evening at the ball park, there will also be a 50/50 raffle, where folks may have the opportunity to take home some awesome prizes.
Mrs. Olesen added that some of the children, supported by the Guardian Ad Litem program, will also have the opportunity to run the bases following the game.
"People should come out to find out more about us, show their support and, as they learn more, they can tell others about us," Mrs. Olesen said. "Caring and advocating the children in this community is a joint effort. Friends of Children also provides a great service to these kids and our program."
On Friday, May 9 at 6:30 p.m., the Brevard County Manatees will host the Guardian Ad Litem volunteers and its nonprofit Friends of Children of Brevard, as the Manatees take on the Daytona Cubs.
For more information on the Guardian Ad Litem program, visit www.BrevardCounty.us/GuardianAdLitem/BecomeVolunteer or contact Amber Olesen at Amber.Olesen@BrevardCounty.us.