12th JUDICIAL CIRCUIT OF FLORIDA
Guardian Ad Litem Program
Advocating for Children in Sarasota, Manatee, & DeSoto Counties
About Our Guardian Ad Litem Program
The 12th Judicial Circuit Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) program recruits, trains, supports and supervises court-appointed volunteers to represent their most vulnerable children.
More than a thousand children in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties have been removed from their homes due to allegations of abuse, neglect or abandonment. Through no fault of their own, they must now navigate through the dependency court system where a judge is forced to make decisions about a child he or she has never even met. A confused and frightened child can easily get lost in an already overburdened child welfare system.
A GAL is a unique concept in the juvenile court system: a trained and certified community volunteer appointed by the judge to speak up for an abused or neglected child in court. The GAL acts as the vital information link between the court and the child, making independent, objective recommendations regarding the child's best interests.
GAL volunteers receive in-depth training on the court process, child development, abuse and neglect, cultural differences, advocacy, interviewing techniques and social service education.
The goal is for every child to have representation; every child deserves a Guardian ad Litem.
A Guardian ad Litem volunteer is also known as a CASA
(Court Appointed Special Advocate)