[Tallahassee, Florida] – It’s no secret that many Floridians become Guardian ad Litem volunteers –advocating for the best interests of abused, abandoned and neglected children – upon retirement.
After all, most of the state’s 10,000-plus GALs tend to be people who have given back to their communities all their lives. And once they learn to help children recover from a rough start in life, they tend to find it highly rewarding.
“Our volunteers are some of the most big-hearted people you can imagine,” said GAL Executive Director Alan Abramowitz. “I can’t tell you how many children’s lives they have turned around.”
But many GAL volunteers are also finding that in helping maltreated kids, they are helping themselves, too.
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, studies of the relationship between volunteering and health show “a significant relationship between volunteering and good health; when older adults volunteer, they not only help their community but also experience better health in later years, whether in terms of greater longevity, higher functional ability, or lower rates of depression.”
Studies also find that volunteers must meet a “volunteering threshold” of time and engagement in order to reap significant health benefits. Various studies define the threshold as volunteering with two or more organizations, or volunteering from 40 to 100 hours per year.
Florida’s GAL volunteers say they have plenty of opportunities to meet that threshold.
“On average, volunteers spend about 10 hours a month on one case,” said Executive Director, Abramowitz. “It’s up to them if they want to spend more time with that child, or to take on more cases.”
Moreover, the volunteer-driven GAL Program offers a steady stream of training courses, conferences and other development opportunities.
In a Nov. 10 article in the Wall Street Journal, “The Best Way for Retirees to Find Meaningful Volunteer Work,” retirement expert Glenn Ruffenach praised the guardian ad litem programs – also known nationally as Court Appointed Special Advocate programs.
“Groups organized to train and put volunteers to work tend to offer more – more educational opportunities, more chances to mingle with fellow recruits, more social hours and more recognition – all of which may grow in importance when volunteer work replaces a career,” Ruffenach wrote. “One retiree told us about the formal recognition she received through the national Court Appointed Special Advocate program, known in some communities as the guardian ad litem program, in which volunteers speak up for abused and neglected children in the courts.”
After GAL and CASA volunteers complete their training, Ruffenach’s source told him, they are sworn in by a judge.
“The judge thanks you in court, and you feel like you’re a professional,” he quoted her. “That’s different from some other volunteer places.”
Since January 2017, there have been 12,526 volunteers who have spent more than 231,000 hours representing more than 37,000 children. Even with this many volunteers, there are still many vulnerable children who need someone to advocate for them.
To learn more about the Guardian ad Litem Program or to become a volunteer visit www.GuardianadLitem.org or call 1-866-341-1GAL.