The Florida Legislature Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (“OPPAGA”) has issued its report to ensure accountability and strengthen Florida’s Guardian ad Litem Program
Created in 2004, the Guardian ad Litem Program provides trained volunteers to ensure best interest representation for children who are subject to dependency proceedings. Unlike other states, that provide a directed attorney for children in abuse and neglect proceedings in line with the American Bar Association’s Model Act, Florida takes a unique and different approach. Florida’s model employs a multi-disciplinary team method, “wherein a child receives the services of a GAL volunteer, a staff advocate, and a staff attorney that represents the program, not the child.”
Guardians are trained volunteers with distinct and separate roles from the attorneys involved. Volunteers are charged with advocating for only one, maybe two children at a time.
A Florida Senate Committee raised concerns about the report, which can be viewed here.
The OPPAGA report recommends methods to improve greater accountability of the GAL Program. While it has been debated what model is best, the ABA or the multi-disciplinary team approach, it is imperative that the legislature, the agency, and appointed attorneys work together to provide the best measurable outcomes and services possible to children in dependency proceedings and work toward strengthening the voices of children throughout the state of Florida.
Read more from the Tampa Bay Times here.