The Community Foundation exists to help generous individuals, families and organizations put their philanthropic vision to work. One of the most rewarding charitable giving vehicles is an endowment—a fund that will exist in perpetuity to help now AND for generations to come. Felecia L. Walker, Esq., Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) board chair talks about how—and most importantly—why GAL Foundation chose to establish an endowment at The Community Foundation:
“At the beginning of my career a judge said to me that the impact we have on the children in the system affects their entire lives and generations to come. It had a huge influence on me that if you can change one child’s story you can change the future. These children’s stories are not already written. We can do something today to help them and help our community. The children in the system are usually not delinquent children who have committed a crime or gone astray. They are completely innocent and need us to come together as a community to change their story. It is our duty and privilege to do so.”
Youth aging out of foster care face unique challenges and need the support of the community. The Guardian ad Litem Foundation of Florida’s First Coast, along with John and Marjorie Arrowsmith in honor of the memory of their daughter, Krista, have funded an endowment to further the educational goals of these youth and to help Change a Child’s Story for the better!
Although the Department of Children and Families offers tuition and fee exemptions to public state universities and colleges in the Florida College Systems, it does not cover many of the expenses associated with education including housing, meal plans, books, laptops, and other fees. Many of these children also have a desire to attend vocational, technical or other programs that are not covered by the tuition waiver. The endowment will focus on providing children who have participated in the Guardian ad Litem Program in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties to further their educational goals. These children have already faced greater hardship than many of us have known in our lives and our goal is to remove as many future obstacles as we can.
What is the Guardian ad Litem program?
The Guardian ad Litem Program serves as the exclusive advocate for abused, neglected and abandoned children in the Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties’ court system. In September 2021 alone, the Fourth Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program had 1,389 children assigned a Guardian ad Litem and only 524 certified volunteers to fill the need. Guardian ad Litems make a profound impact on the children they serve and the communities these children call home. Children with a Guardian ad Litem are:
- More likely to get adopted
- Half as likely to re-enter foster care
- Less likely to spend time in long-term foster care
- More likely to have a plan for permanency
- More likely to perform well in school
All Guardian ad Litems are volunteers. They are court-appointed special advocates whose job is to serve as the voice of the child – a voice that is separate from the child’s family members, foster care providers, attorneys or social workers.
About the Guardian ad Litem Foundation
The goal of the Guardian ad Litem Foundation of Florida’s First Coast is to:
- Raise awareness about abused, neglected and abandoned children
- Assist in recruiting and supporting the GAL Program and volunteers
- Provide funding to support training and retention of volunteers
- Provide support for staff and volunteers
- Provide necessities for children in the program
“We are furthering the funding beyond the age of majority,” said Walker. “Often times, we are the only support system these youth have.”
More information about the newly launched Empowerment Scholarship can be found here.
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” W.B. Yeats
For more information about establishing an endowment to benefit your organization, please contact John Zell, VP, Development at The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida. firstname.lastname@example.org or 904.356.4483