As we approach Thanksgiving, there could not be a better time to learn that Governor Scott has included our #1 budget priority in his recommended budget to the Legislature. The Governor recommended that more than a million dollars be included in the Guardian ad Litem budget, which adds 19 positions and provides that all children in out-of-home care are represented by a Guardian ad Litem. The Legislature still must approve this request and include it in both the Senate and House budgets, but this is a great start, as we enter the final month before the legislative session begins.
I also remain optimistic that the Legislature will provide funding to represent children under the age of 3 years in In-Home Care and funding for staff certification and training. As I know you are deserving, I continue to advocate for salary adjustments for our attorneys and professional staff and have communicated that to leadership in both the Senate and the House. I am extremely thankful to the Governor for his long-term and continued commitment to the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program.
There are other very bright spots for children and persons with disabilities in Governor Scott’s recommended budget:
• an increase of $1.9 million over last year’s funding for Florida Healthy Families.
• continuation of $3 million for the Statewide Public Guardianship Program to operate on a statewide basis.
• an increase of $19 million to enhance mental health and substance abuse services.
• $6.9 million additional funding for Maintenance Adoption Subsidy.
• funding to eliminate the wait list for community based waiver services in the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.
Just as I am thankful to Governor Scott, I am also thankful to you. I am so proud of the work our GAL volunteers and staff do every day. I am thankful and humbled when I read articles like Guardian ad Litem Program Changes Lives, or when I read about a family that has their fourth adoption finalized, or when 60 children’s adoptions are finalized in Miami during a special event. These are wonderful milestones – heartwarming and meaningful. But I know it’s the wins for our children that our GAL volunteers and staff are most proud of. When a GAL ensures a child receives the educational testing they need, or a child gets to visit their brother, or when a child gets much needed services – these are the great deeds that I am so thankful for this holiday.
Thank you for advocating for all the small things, all the big things, and all the impossible things. Thank you for believing in our most vulnerable children and for being a constant and steady voice celebrating all the small victories – brushing frustration and the word “no” aside.
May you have a restful, family and friend filled Thanksgiving.