On Tuesday, May 5, Palm Beach County Commissioner Gregg Weiss will issue a proclamation designating the month of May as National Foster Care, Speak Up for Kids and Guardian ad Litem Month in honor of the hard work and dedication exhibited on behalf of vulnerable children across the county.
There are 20 Guardian ad Litem circuits in Florida, with Palm Beach County the 15th Judicial District. The Palm Beach County Guardian ad Litem Circuit Director is Michelle Canaday, while the Executive Director for Speak Up for Kids is Coleen LaCosta. Together they work tirelessly to advance child advocacy.
In addition to the Palm Beach County Commission, the towns of Lake Park and Juno Beach, as well as the cities of Boynton Beach and Belle Glade, have either already issued proclamations or have agreed to do so this month. In May 2021, Speak Up for Kids will host its inaugural Celebration of Advocacy Luncheon to honor volunteers and community leaders in the continued effort to protect and speak up for children.
“In prior years, just about every city in our county signed proclamations in support of the Guardian ad Litem Program. Our ask this year is a bit different,” LaCosta said. “We asked the county as well as each city to sign a proclamation highlighting May as National Foster Care Month in addition to recognizing the work of Speak Up for Kids and the Palm Beach County Guardian ad Litem. The support has been tremendous.”
Canaday said that she is glad to see the continued support in these uncertain times.
“We are looking for opportunities to engage with each city in Palm Beach County to forward our mission of ensuring each child involved in dependency court proceedings is afforded a Guardian ad Litem; in essence, a voice in the court system representing only the child’s best interest,” Canaday said. “With greater than 300 children currently awaiting a volunteer, the need is great, but we continue to be encouraged by the outpouring of support and the opportunity to build awareness.”
Speak Up for Kids is the exclusive nonprofit supporting the efforts of the Palm Beach County Guardian ad Litem Program and the close to 700 volunteer child advocates who provide oversight and support to children while also serving as their voice in the court system.
The work of volunteer child advocates and their associated nonprofit supports generate a savings to the State of Florida of almost $20 million, estimating it would take an additional 450-plus employees to perform the work of the statewide network of Guardian ad Litem volunteer advocates. In Palm Beach County, that is a savings of greater than $1 million in salaries and mileage reimbursement costs alone.
Speak Up for Kids and the Guardian ad Litem Program work hand-in-hand to not only train and appropriately equip volunteer advocates, but to also locate potential foster and forever families, and provide funding for activities so children in the system can participate in activities comparable to their peers, including sports, birthdays and music lessons; all allowing for normalcy during the most chaotic time in their young lives.
If you are interested in volunteering, visit www.galpbc.org.