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Guardian Ad Litem

April 13th, 2009 by flanews

Budget cuts could force 5,700 children who have been removed from their families to face the court system alone. Lawmakers are considering massive cuts to the state’s Guardian Ad Litem program. As Whitney Ray tells us, the program gives foster kids a shoulder to lean on during some of life’s toughest moments.

17-Year old Samantha Rogers has been in and out of foster care since 2005. The state appointed a guardian to help Samantha though the legal process and to calm her fears.

“With everyone else you feel like a case and not a person, but you come to Guardian Ad Litem and they make you feel like you are a child still, not just a case being towed from courtroom to courtroom,” said Samantha.

The Guardian Ad Litem Program relies on 500 paid employees and 7,000 volunteers to represent 27,000 foster kids. House lawmakers want to cut the program’s budget by 23 percent.

Guardian Ad Litem Director Theresa Flury says a cut that large would force them to drop 5,700 kids from the program.

“It would directly impact the representation of children. It would directly impact the ability for us to recruit more volunteers,” said Flury.

Ashley Mayer is one of those volunteers.

“Without having a guardian to advocate in the best interest of the child you’re probably going to see a lot of social cost on the back end of kids who didn’t have someone taking care of them,” said Mayer.

As for Samantha, her guardian helped her move out on her own and enrolls in college. She credits her guardian for her success and fears the cuts will keep more foster kids from to share her story.

After five year old Rilya Wilson went missing from a foster care home in 2001, a blue ribbon panel recommended every foster kid be given a guardian.

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