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12th Circuit GAL Newsletter

October 2019

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Interview with

Our Director

Welcome back to all from what I hope was a restful and productive summer. I would like everyone to be aware of our unique 12th Circuit Mentoring Program. I am extremely proud that the 12th Circuit is one of the few circuits in the State of Florida with its own mentoring program. Under the leadership of Jennifer Smith, the mentoring program has 52 mentors, serves many volunteers and, is a model for the entire State of Florida. Jennifer recently completed an extensive survey of volunteers, CAMs, and mentors about the effectiveness of our mentoring program. The results of the survey will be disseminated to everyone shortly.

Colleagues, I am pleased to inform you that a community resource guide for VCAs (Volunteer Child Advocates) is in the process of being developed. This guide will serve as a vehicle for volunteers to ask questions and get needed answers and support. More details will follow.

The next VCA training program will begin next month and as of this writing, we have a class of 15 new volunteers! As part of the initial training, the entire group of volunteers will make a courtroom observation together. Participants in this “Core Observation” program will be sworn in by the presiding judge and will be able to get a first hand look at the proceedings and procedures of the Juvenile Court system that serves our sheltered children.

Please know that I understand the challenges volunteers experience in mastering the Optima system. While Optima procedures are an integral part of the training program, the proficient use of Optima requires time and additional support. All volunteers can get technical assistance concerning Optima problems and questions from their CAM.

I also understand the difficulty everyone experiences in mastering the many acronyms associated with our program. As new acronyms come into use, they are added to our master list found under Guardian Links in Optima. However, the sheer volume of new acronyms makes updating this list a significant challenge. Please contact your CAM with questions about acronyms.

Finally, there are several important changes that were recommended by the CAM team who are tasked with reviewing and “approving” VCA Contact Log entries. Please read Nina’s comments in this newsletter under “Reminder” concerning the changes in how VCAs indicate the “Contact Log Type” and “Time” in their Optima Contact Logs entries. — Jay Steele


 
 

12th Circuit Statistics

1232 Sheltered Children

1032 Children with Volunteers

398 Certified Active Volunteers

14 New Volunteers September


 
 
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Volunteer Anniversaries

18 YEARS

Andrew Bean

14 YEARS

Patricia Singletary

13 YEARS

Wanda Cordell-Tondreau

Derek Noll

Lynn Ouellette

Linda Jentsch

Sandra Mullen

Sandra Rhodes

Carolyn Gilbert

Kathleen Rey

12 YEARS

Robert Merrill

Marylee  Zerkel

11 YEARS

Monique Gutierrez

Marca Markwitz

Barbara Dittmann

Jack Reynolds

9 YEARS

Wendell Graham

8 YEARS

Carol Newby

Rachel Bailey

4 YEARS

Louise Machinist

Christine Hersberger

Beth Anderson

3 YEARS

Kathleen Ellis

Beverly Stautzenbach

Pamela Flanagan

Barry Wells

Teresa Ormiston

Lucille Smith

Theresa Konst

Scott Custer

2 YEARS

Debra Jones

Owen Murray

Sheri Bridges

Patrick McLain

Wendy Seeley

Virginia Winkler

Christopher Raetz

Amy Ritchie

Michael Yomtov

Mary Fiorini

Bridget Bristow

Sylvia Marnie

Catherine Druskin

Barbara McAleer

1 YEAR

Margaret Freeman

Danielle Bernier

Susan Shin-Harris

Rosemary Black

Shana Hamel

Ailsa Deitemeyer


Reminders:

The GAL Report to the Court is a team report. That means that when the volunteer submits their draft report to the CAM (Child Advocate Manager) three weeks before the scheduled judicial review hearing date, both the CAM and the CBIA (Child’s Best Interest Attorney) each have a week to review the volunteer’s draft and make necessary edits, revisions, additions or changes to the report in order to ensure the final version meets the required legal sufficiency and statutory filing deadline. To that end, it is important that volunteers abide by report due dates listed in Optima to keep the GAL Report on track. Finally, in our virtual office space, the preferred report draft format is the use of a “Word Document.” Using a “Word Document” format allows the staff to easily edit and prepare the report to meet the Clerk’s e-filing requirements.
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A reminder to all VCAs: All cases in our dependency court are considered confidential. This means that any and all things that occur in court, such as statements made, behaviors observed, and judge’s rulings are all confidential and therefore must not be repeated to outside parties or announced on social media. It is best to err on the side of caution and NOT post anything pertaining to your case on social media. If you have questions about what you can post, please see your CAM.
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Optima Reminders

VCAs may have noticed some changes to the Contact Log Contact Type drop-down menu re: “Child Present” and “Child not Present” with Face-to-Face and Video Call contact. Please be sure to select the correct contact type for your home visit. Also, “Time” located in “Contact Logs” is documented in quarter increments, For example: “.25” = >15 minutes; “.50” = 16-30 minutes;“.75” = 31-45 minutes; “1.00” = 46-60 minutes, and “2.00” = 2 hours
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There are various training opportunities made available to our volunteers each month. Participation in these opportunities will enable VCAs to receive credit towards their required annual training hours. VCAs are reminded to document their hours in their individual Training Tab.
— Nina Sumilang

2019 UPCOMING EVENTS

October 11: 2019 12th Circuit Guardian ad Litem Fall Mini Conference - Register here!

October 17: Childhood Depression

October 24 - 26: New GAL Pre-Service Training

October 29: Judge Teresa Dees - A Perspective from the Bench

FOR MORE INFORMATION, go to our website!


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GAL Question Corner

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Is there a particular topic that interests you? Is there a question you would like the GAL staff to answer? Is there any information we can provide to you to help you become a more effective child advocate? Click here to send an email to our Newsletter Staff or send an email to jmsteele20@comcast.net, and we will do our best to respond to your concerns in our next newsletter.


Featured Article

How to Change Behavior in Oppositional Children — Jay Steele

Part Two: More Effective Parenting Skills

In September’s newsletter, we considered the writings of Haim Ginott, noted clinical psychologist, child therapist, educator, and author.  Dr. Ginott pioneered techniques for conversing with children that are still taught today.  His best selling classic, Between Parent and Child: The Bestselling Classic That Revolutionized Parent-Child Communication, stayed on the bestseller list for over a year and is still popular today.  In addition to adopting and adapting Dr. Ginott’s ideas on effective communication with children, I have developed my own parenting principles throughout my 52 years as a parent, therapist, teacher, psychologist, administrator, writer, public official, and independent researcher.  The following ideas can serve as a “menu” for those who wish to improve their parenting and communication skills.  I invite you to consider the use of those that may have some validity for you and to reject those ideas that are unsuitable.

1. When communicating with children, make sure that your responses are consistent and that your rules are consistently enforced.  For example, if Johnny is supposed to be in bed by 10:30 PM on weekdays and 12:00 AM on weekends, be sure to lovingly and consistently enforce those time limits.  While a very occasional renegotiation of rules is permitted for special occasions, if these time limits are consistently enforced, the desired behavior will follow.  When the rules no longer work effectively, renegotiate them and develop a new set of guidelines.  

2. When responding to a child’s request, consider all possible and viable options, before saying, “No, you can’t do that,” or “No, that won’t work.” “No” should consistently and unequivocally mean “no.”  Be predictable!  And, continue to respond to the same request consistently, unless or until circumstances change.

3. The best rules are negotiated, agreed upon rules between caregiver and child . . . Make the child a stakeholder.

4. Be sure you reinforce positive and desired behaviors. When Mary says, “Thank you,” or ‘Please,” recognize her efforts with a kind word of appreciation or a smile.  Your positive reinforcement will help facilitate a repetition of the desired behavior.

5. Establish cooperation between home and school so that there is a consistent set of expectations and responses in both environments. If you are trying to discourage Mary from her aggressive behaviors at home, there’s a good chance that she is exhibiting those same behaviors in school.  If both the parent and teacher are able agree on a common response if and when specific maladaptive behaviors occur (a 20 minute time-out, a required apology to the victim, and/or loss of certain privileges), the child is more likely to change his or her behavior in both environments.  Keep the responses or punishments fair and apply them consistently both at home and at school.  

6. Teach children to be problem solvers.  Here’s another real life situation that can lead to the development of problem solving skills.  Suppose Mary comes home after school crying and very upset. Mary reports that she has had an argument with her best friend over a hurtful comment.  After Mary has stopped crying, help her to think about and/or write down all the options she might possibly consider employing to resolve this conflict. Then, ask Mary to prioritize her items from her best option to the least effective option (A, B, C, D…).  Finally, ask Mary to choose the best option.  By involving your child in this process, you are teaching her an important life skill.  Mary will hopefully understand that this is her problem! She will learn to take ownership of her own problems. And finally, she will learn how to solve her own problems. Then, ask Mary to choose the best course of action and test its effectiveness.  Did her option work? Did you resolve the problem? If not, go to “option B.” It’s empowering for individuals to solve their own problems.

7. Be sure to provide an appropriate response to specific behavioral changes and accomplishments.  Sometimes a simple “good job,” or “I appreciate your efforts” is enough. Not everyone gets a trophy for doing the right thing or for simply playing by the rules.  Don’t overdo a good thing.  Don’t patronize your child. Make sure the reward fits the accomplishment.

In conclusion, good parenting skills are designed to foster independence, teach youngsters to solve problems and develop resiliency, and enable children to accept the consequences of their behavior. While good parenting skills take work, there is much to be gained for those who develop this valuable expertize.


Congratulations to our new GAL Volunteer Pre-Service Graduates!


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CGF News

Helping our Kids Soar : CGF Annual Fundraising Luncheon

Save the date!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019 12:00 – 1:30 pm

Michael’s on East, Sarasota

For questions, call: 941-504-9515

Register as a sponsor here.

Purchase individual tickets here.

ATTENTION all Volunteer Child Advocates with children ages 3 and 4 who attend a pre-K school and are placed in relative or non-relative care!!!  The Children’s Guardian Fund has had a generous donor designate funds to provide a   $100 Target or Walmart gift card   for children age 3 and age 4 in relative or non-relative care who need uniforms, clothes, shoes, etc. to attend a pre-K program. Pre-K Funds can be requested on the Children’s Guardian Fund website under GAL Requests using the “Pre-K Clothing” form.  These funds are to be used only for Pre-K students and only for children placed in relative care or with non-relative caregivers** AND who have an assigned VCA (Volunteer Child Advocate). This program is not for children living in licensed foster care placements and group homes, please do not request funds for those children.  The per child gift available is:  Age 3 and Age 4 will receive one $100 Target or Walmart Gift Card  If you are requesting for more than 1 child in the same placement please list all children on one request form, do not fill out separate forms. In order to ensure funds are spent on intended use, the gift cards will be mailed to the assigned VCA only.  Request form:  https://www.childrensguardianfund.org/pre-k-clothing-request/   Questions: 941/702-0828 or  programs@childrensguardianfund.org   ** relative caregivers are maternal or paternal grandparent, aunt, uncle, older sibling or parent  **Non-relative caregivers are neighbor, friend, teacher, church member, etc.  CGF reminders: 1. VCAs when submitting a “General Fund Request” please attach a flyer or brochure or website that has the PRICING information on it for the plethora of activities, sporting leagues, drama classes, etc. It slows things down when we must request this after you have completed your General Funding Request Form.  2.  THANK YOU  for an extremely successful School Clothing event! You submitted  194 requests and clothed 284 children! The receipts, photographs, Photo Release Forms, and thank you notes from children and caregivers continue to pour in. The School Clothing request form is officially closed on the CGF website. Many of you did a terrific job of working with your children to ensure they were prepared for the new school year. If you have a few straggling receipts, please email them to  programs@childrensguardianfund.org  or mail them to: Children’s Guardian Fund P.O. Box 49722 Sarasota, FL 34230 Thank you!

ATTENTION all Volunteer Child Advocates with children ages 3 and 4 who attend a pre-K school and are placed in relative or non-relative care!!!

The Children’s Guardian Fund has had a generous donor designate funds to provide a $100 Target or Walmart gift card for children age 3 and age 4 in relative or non-relative care who need uniforms, clothes, shoes, etc. to attend a pre-K program. Pre-K Funds can be requested on the Children’s Guardian Fund website under GAL Requests using the “Pre-K Clothing” form.

These funds are to be used only for Pre-K students and only for children placed in relative care or with non-relative caregivers** AND who have an assigned VCA (Volunteer Child Advocate). This program is not for children living in licensed foster care placements and group homes, please do not request funds for those children.

The per child gift available is:

Age 3 and Age 4 will receive one $100 Target or Walmart Gift Card

If you are requesting for more than 1 child in the same placement please list all children on one request form, do not fill out separate forms. In order to ensure funds are spent on intended use, the gift cards will be mailed to the assigned VCA only.

Request form: https://www.childrensguardianfund.org/pre-k-clothing-request/

Questions: 941/702-0828 or programs@childrensguardianfund.org

** relative caregivers are maternal or paternal grandparent, aunt, uncle, older sibling or parent

**Non-relative caregivers are neighbor, friend, teacher, church member, etc.

CGF reminders:
1. VCAs when submitting a “General Fund Request” please attach a flyer or brochure or website that has the PRICING information on it for the plethora of activities, sporting leagues, drama classes, etc. It slows things down when we must request this after you have completed your General Funding Request Form.

2. THANK YOU for an extremely successful School Clothing event! You submitted

194 requests and clothed 284 children! The receipts, photographs, Photo Release Forms, and thank you notes from children and caregivers continue to pour in. The School Clothing request form is officially closed on the CGF website. Many of you did a terrific job of working with your children to ensure they were prepared for the new school year. If you have a few straggling receipts, please email them to programs@childrensguardianfund.org or mail them to: Children’s Guardian Fund P.O. Box 49722 Sarasota, FL 34230 Thank you!

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CGF Open House

I know many of you have asked: “Where does the CGF magic happen?!”

Join us for an Open House! Click here for details and to RSVP!

Hope to see everyone attend!