[Bartow] – The Florida Guardian ad Litem Program surprised Sen. Ben Albritton of Wauchula on Wednesday with a ceremony honoring him as its “Legislator of the Year” for his leadership in bettering the lives of abused, abandoned and neglected children.
About 110 staff, volunteers and supporters crowded the Bartow Library to surprise the senator, led by his wife, Missy, Guardian ad Litem Executive Director Alan Abramowitz and Guardian ad Litem Circuit Director Cookie Mooney of the Tenth Judicial Circuit.
Albritton has the distinction of being the first Florida lawmaker Guardian ad Litem has honored as “Legislator of the Year” for his service in both chambers of the Legislature.
“For years, Sen. Albritton has been a tremendous ally for foster children and foster care parents,” Abramowitz said. “He’s sponsored many bills that became law and improved the lives of children and youth who had been removed from their homes.”
The affectionate ambush left Albritton wiping his eyes, but he refused credit. “Walking around the Capitol and trying to convince my colleagues to do something good for kids might be the simplest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” he said.
This year Albritton sponsored “A Year is a Long Time in the Life of a Child,” a measure designed to reduce the amount of time children spend in foster care and signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on June 25, 2019.
Among the Wauchula lawmaker’s groundbreaking reforms are two 2013 measures that placed Florida in the vanguard of state child welfare systems: the option of extending foster care from age 18 to age 21, and the normalcy bill, known as “Let Kids Be Kids,” which replaced a restrictive system of permissions with a “reasonable prudent parent” standard. Previously, many rules had prevented children in out-of-home care from leading normal lives and participating in everyday activities with their peers. Then-Rep. Albritton teamed with then-Sen. Nancy Detert on those measures. And in 2014, the duo sponsored the “Keys to Independence Act,” which paid the costs of driver education, licensure and insurance so that youth in foster care could learn to drive.
“When there is a problem for these kids, nothing stops him from finding a way to solve it,” Abramowitz said. “He’s turned other legislators into child advocates.”
To learn more about the Guardian ad Litem Program or to become a volunteer, visit GuardianAdLitem.org or call 1-866-341-1425.