POINT OF VIEW: Augment, don’t duplicate child welfare services

As a guardian ad litem volunteer, I take exception to the Point of View by Howard M. Talenfeld published Jan. 18 in The Palm Beach Post.

There are 39,000 children in Florida’s foster care system. I currently have six foster children for whom I advocate. I advocate for their safety, their education needs, their health care — both physical and mental — their happiness, their sibling and family connections, and their wants and needs. In other words, I advocate for them to have all that any child needs to grow to be the best he or she can be.

I visit them in their foster homes and schools. I consult with teachers, therapists, doctors and all whose job it is to best help these children develop. I know the foster parents, and I know the birth parents. I also have meaningful relationships with the children. By doing all this, I work toward the goal of family reunification. If that does not mean the birth parents, I reach out to other family members. And if those options are not feasible, we advocate for a “forever home” for the children.

But contrary to what Talenfeld’s letter would have Post readers think, I do not do this alone. I am part of a team. The guardian ad litem team consists of full-time social workers, lawyers, case managers and administrators. Each case we handle is assigned to a case manager and an attorney whose only job is to advocate and protect the best interests of the child. We work with the state Department of Children and Families, which has been entrusted to protect the children in their foster homes. We go to court to represent the child with a complete picture that we share with magistrates and judges. In other words, our team knows our children. We fight for our children.

Proposal 40, which is before the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, is not fiscally responsible. Talenfeld says he proposes to do what the guardian ad litem team does. He does not give the reader an accurate picture. Instead of asking voters to duplicate services, we need to augment the system that already works.

Proposal 40 does not deserve our support. Florida’s guardian ad litem program does. By doing so, you will best advocate for and protect Florida’s children.


Editor’s note: Betsy Golub is a state guardian ad litem volunteer in Florida 15th Judicial Circuit.

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