Florida Children's Week kicks off with 20 new child advocates

Published: Mar. 24, 2019 at 8:54 PM EDT
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By: Sophia Hernandez | WCTV Eyewitness News

March 24, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- As Florida Children's Week kicks off, 20 volunteers are being sworn in to their newest positions as Guardians ad Litem.

After 3 to 4 weeks of training, they are now able to take on their first cases, and work to make a difference in the lives of children across the state of Florida.

The individuals provide support to the court while maintaining the child's best interests.

After being sworn in at the Capitol, children advocates, like Bill Schack, are excited to start the process.

"Children need a voice," he said. "I have always been someone who likes to help people and this is just a different way to do it."

For Schack, his vow is a personal one.

"My wife and I adopted a daughter when she was 8 years old. She was in foster care for 2 years and 8 different homes, and if it wasn't for the Guardian ad Litem in our case, we would have never been able to adopt her," he explained.

His daughter, Courtney Schack, shares, "Him becoming a guardian means a lot because my guardian did a lot for me and my family. So, if I didn't have a guardian in my case, I would never have been able to be adopted by this family."

Those in the role, like Quierah Caldwell, provide a voice to the voiceless.

"Just to know that at the end of the case, we are going to change a life and make a difference and just impact those children," says Caldwell.

Those children hung painted hands around the Capitol building over the weekend. Advocates are hoping that lawmakers stop and notice.

"When the Legislature comes in here and see these things hanging, and at the top of their mind they think about children, maybe when they are in committee meetings and making laws and passing bills, they are going to get the funding that these organizations need, because children need help and children definitely are the future," expresses Schack.

With children being the focus, those that are sworn in are hoping they can now make an impact.

"We might see them years ahead and they may remember us and thank us for the work that we have done. It is just very rewarding to myself and to the community as well," states Caldwell.

Schack says, "Someone personally like me, who has adopted a child, I know absolutely it will help a child live a better life."

Last year, the Florida Guardian ad Litem program swore in 12,000 volunteers, who later helped over 39,000 children.