A specialty license plate for the Florida Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program can now be pre-ordered, with proceeds going to help the abused, abandoned and neglected children the Program represents in state dependency courts. The GAL tag will include the Program’s logo and its slogan, “Heartfelt Child Advocacy.” It was one of 32 specialty plates approved by the 2020 Legislature and signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis last month.
“It gives visibility to our mission and our cause,” said CEO Sonia Valladares of the Guardian ad Litem Foundation, the Program’s non-profit arm. “It’s an opportunity to promote our mission on vehicles all across the state.”
Last year GAL staff and volunteers represented 39,792 children in dependency court. More than 10,000 Floridians volunteered as Guardians ad Litem, working with Program attorneys and social workers in teams to represent children in court. Volunteer child advocates donated more than 340,000 hours and drove almost 3 million miles to represent Florida children last year, while 439 attorneys took children’s cases pro bono.
The Program always needs more volunteers, GAL Executive Director Alan Abramowitz said, because children continually come into the system. Abramowitz has long wanted the Program to have a specialty tag because it increases public awareness. “Seeing our logo improves the chances of recruiting volunteers,” he said.
Under the bill, proceeds from the GAL plates will go to the GAL Foundation, a direct-support organization and nonprofit corporation. The Foundation supports the mission of the Program, including recruiting, training, certifying and retaining its volunteers.
“This is going to be a big help to us in getting the word out,” said Foundation President Lori Duarte-Roberts.
Now that House Bill 1135 is law, the next step is to pre-sell 3,000 tags. Once that happens, the plates can be manufactured. A survey of GAL staff and volunteers has shown a ready market, said Duarte-Roberts.
To learn more about the Guardian ad Litem Foundation, please visit www.flgal.org or call 1-850-922-7213.