The Statewide Guardian ad Litem Program will celebrate the professional certification of 384 staff members, known as Child Advocate Managers, in a virtual ceremony to be held Friday, July 24 – making Florida the first state to establish uniform standards for independent child advocates.
Child Advocate Managers, known as CAMs, perform a wide range of duties to advocate for Florida’s abused and neglected children in dependency court, including connecting children to needed services and supervising the volunteers who also serve them. Professional certification means the CAMs have met standards for education, training and on-the-job performance; passed a certification exam; agreed to follow a standard Code of Ethical and Professional Conduct; and committed to further their professional growth via annual continuing education.
“It raises the whole level of expertise,” said state Sen. Gayle Harrell, who will keynote the ceremony. “It ensures a well-trained workforce. These kids have been through trauma, and we want them to have the very best.”
“This certification will increase the public’s confidence in the skills and integrity of the credentialed Child Advocate Manager,” said Neal McGarry, CEO of the Florida Certification Board, which oversaw the transition. He credited GAL Executive Director Alan Abramowitz “for his leadership and vision in establishing the first professional certification program in the U.S. for the Guardian Ad Litem Child Advocate Manager.”
Because certified managers must meet the Code of Ethical and Professional Conduct, McGarry said, the system offers a real-time, public-access database of their certification status and ethics history.
Professor Chris Groeber of the University of South Florida School of Social Work, who worked with GAL trainers to develop the course curriculum, said professional certification “sets a quality baseline standard…It shows our commitment to families that we will guarantee you this standard…And it provides core information to build on so we can exceed that baseline.”
Senator Harrell, CEO McGarry and Professor Groeber will speak at Friday’s ceremony. It will be held by webinar and emceed by Kristen Solomon, GAL’s Director of Operations, who called it an “historical milestone” for the Program. Also participating will be Abramowitz and Florida Certification Board Director Amy Farrington, along with hundreds of newly-certified CAMs.
To learn more about the Guardian ad Litem Program, or to become a volunteer, please visit www.GuardianadLitem.org or call 1-866-341-1GAL.