By Yvonne Marrone
Socks, underwear and backpacks may seem like givens when starting a new school year, but for more than 3,000 students in the Hillsborough County dependency system (foster care), it may not be without your help. The staff and volunteers of the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program are teaming up with other court-associated groups and county offices for a Summer Briefs drive to collect new underwear, socks, school supplies, and backpacks for children in foster care—group homes and other facilities. Hillsborough has the second largest number of these children in the state.
“The numbers are staggering, but the solution to this aspect of the situation is fairly easy,” said Tabitha Lambert, Circuit Director for the Guardian ad Litem 13th Circuit. “Just purchasing one new packet of underwear and socks for a boy or girl, all ages and sizes, can make a huge difference to that child’s self-esteem as they begin a new year, and maybe give them a smile on that first day of school.”
The GAL program advocates for children removed from their home due to abuse, abandonment or neglect. Volunteers work to identify the needs of these children so they can experience a normal life as much as possible while their case is being worked in the court system. Many times just having clean clothes and the tools they need in class can give them extra confidence to succeed. Collections will run now through Friday, July 22 with drop-offs at the GAL office, 700 E. Twiggs, Ste. 750 in Tampa.
GAL’s are volunteers appointed by the court to advocate for the best interest of abused, abandoned or neglected children. There are currently about 1,500 children in the dependency court system in Hillsborough County who do not have a GAL to represent their best interests. As trained advocates, GAL volunteers and staff monitor a child’s well-being and serve as trusted advisors in the courts.
For more information about the Guardian ad Litem program and becoming a volunteer, or to partner your company with GAL for this Summer Briefs Drive, visit www.galtampa.org or call 272-5110.