“Yes:” What a wonderful word to be able to say to the request of a confused and emotionally fragile child who has been removed from his or her home due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. Incorporated as a nonprofit on November 17, 1995, the Children’s Guardian Fund (CGF) was established to raise and provide funds for a variety of childhood experiences and to meet many of the needs of children for whom the Guardian ad Litem program (GAL) has been appointed by the court. The GAL volunteer requests funds from CGF for whatever unique need might arise, and CGF provides funds for the recruitment, training and retention of GAL staff and volunteers. Over the past two decades, CGF volunteers have worked tirelessly to meet those needs and provide a sense of normalcy to children in out-of-home care in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties.
To a child, normalcy means being able to participate in age-appropriate enrichment, extracurricular or social activities and to have their day-to-day needs met. To children removed from their homes through no fault of their own, normalcy means they can go to school in clean clothes that fit and sleep in a bed of their own. Normalcy means going on a school-sponsored field trip, being able to play team sports, take ballet or karate lessons, attend prom, have a bike, get a driver’s license, work with a tutor or have needed school supplies. Former State Senator Nancy Detert, who successfully sponsored normalcy legislation said, “Foster kids are just like every other kid…they just want to be regular kids.”
It should come as no surprise that children who have been removed from their homes experience extraordinary challenges in school. In an effort to encourage and reward these children when their work at school improves, CGF recognizes their improvement through the Academic Excellence Award. Among the many recent recipients of that award is a nine-year-old child who now excels in math as a result of CGF-provided tutoring during the school year and over the summer. The student’s eight- and nine-year-old siblings, who were in three placements and attended two different schools in one year, brought their grades up considerably under the watchful eye of their GAL; they now see themselves attending college one day. A young teen who missed many school days due to 10 placements and school changes since coming into care in 2014, received recognition for earning A’s, B’s and one C this past semester. The Academic Excellence Award program is just one of the many programs that provides positive support for children in care.
Initially, funds were only available to provide a child with a birthday cake and maybe a small gift. “It is so rewarding to see the Fund continue to grow as the number of children in foster care grows,” says Andrea McHugh, president of CGF. After 21 years, CGF board members and staff, partnering with businesses, private donors and foundations, have created a program as diverse as the children it serves. From the first birthday cakes in 1995, some of the many things CGF now provides are: birthday and holiday gift cards, summer camp scholarships, tutoring services, computers for school use, an academic awards program, a driver’s education program, YEP!, a youth employment program, Let’s Go Shopping for professional clothes, The Closet for new and trendy clothing, shoes and accessories, college or trade school scholarships and our newest program, Coaches Corps in partnership with Manatee Goodwill for youth 18 years old and older who have or have had a GAL volunteer.
For more information about the Children’s Guardian Fund, visit us at childrensguardianfund.org. To make a tax-deductible donation, please call Svetlana Kaminsky at 941-504-9515 or click on Donate Now on our website.
Nancy Sanders has been an educator for more than two decades, and is one of Florida’s first National Board Certified Teachers. In Sarasota County, she taught at Pine View School and in Booker High’s Law Academy. She imagined, created and served as founding principal for two middle schools (one charter and one private). Nancy received a BA degree with honors in history/political science from Bellarmine College and completed graduate work at the University of Louisville’s School of Law and Department of Political Science. She also completed graduate work at USF’s School of Education and School of Government/International Affairs where she was named Bellamy Constitutional Scholar.
See the article here: http://www.srqmagazine.com/articles/509/Care-for-Kids