HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. -- Mother’s Day can be tough for kids who are separated from their moms, especially those who were removed from their homes.
- Guardian ad Litem program helps children in need
- Volunteers help children navigate the court system
- With the recent opioid crisis, the number of children in need has grown
But thanks to the Guardian ad Litem program, those kids have help from other adults to start a new life.
For the past 25 years, Valerie Faggart has helped hundreds of kids navigate the court systems after being abused, neglected or abandoned.
"We may not be their parent but we look out for them and do the best for them and they become our kids and we fiercely fight for them," Faggart said.
As a Guardian Ad Litem volunteer she fights for the best interest of kids as their cases go before a judge.
Volunteers say with the recent opioid crisis, the number of kids in need has grown.
In Citrus and Hernando counties, the organization says there are over 600 children with child welfare or judicial cases. Many of those kids are younger than 8 years old.
Without a dedicated guardian, volunteers say kids can struggle.
"They don't do as well in school a lot of times they go to many, many different placements,” said Diana Gisonni, director of recruitment and training. “Their needs are not being met as quickly because they don't have anyone speaking up for them."
The time spent with each child varies depending on the length of time needed in court.
Faggart said she's grown close to many of the children she's helped.
"We sometimes visit when they go to doctor's appointments,” she said. “I've gone to baseball games and to graduations."
And even after 25 years, she plans to keep going.
"It just makes me want to do it more...just over the course of the time that I've volunteered things have changed and we have more children that need us," she said.
The Guardian Ad Litem program is in need of volunteers.
The organization’s next training is in June.
For more information, visit guardianadlitem.org.