A Guardian ad Litem is the court-appointed voice of a child when government agencies suspect abuse or neglect. But the GAL program is, on the surface, unusual.
It’s built on a network of solely volunteers who take one case at a time, acting as eyes and ears for kids who are often too young to discerningly use their own. The future of those children is in large part determined by the Guardian ad Litem’s recommendation to the court.
Although the GAL program is held up as an example of what works in child advocacy, it is in a time of transition.
For more than a year, the Miami Herald dug through Department of Children & Families records and police reports to find out how and why nearly 500 children died over the past six years after falling through the Florida Department of Children & Families’ protective net.
The investigative series, Innocents Lost, uncovered the disturbing stories and found that the agency had embraced a family preservation philosophy without ensuring all the necessary social services were in place to keep children safe in troubled homes.
Join the Miami Herald and WLRN-Miami Herald News for a town hall on how to fix the child welfare system at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 17 at the Doral headquarters of the Herald. Learn more at MiamiHerald.com.
This story originally ran on March 17, 2014. This week, we'll dedicate an hour on-air during the Florida Roundup to the Innocents Lost investigation. Tune in Friday, March 28 at noon.
Last week, the Miami Herald launched a series on a history of failures at DCF -- Florida's Department of Children and Families. But these are failures with a body count: Over six years, nearly 500 children died after DCF had been warned, sometimes repeatedly, that they or their siblings could be in danger. There were many missed opportunities for the state to protect the children.