The approaching holidays are a mournful time for many, especially abused and neglected children.
I’m thinking of two memoirs, Hillbilly Elegy by J.D Vance and The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, published in 2016 and 2005, respectively. As if set to the haunting, sorrowful song, “Tin Man,” these books lay bare the ravages of poverty, addiction, physical and verbal abuse, and the code of silence children growing up in such circumstances are sworn to embrace.
The books depict children being exposed to chronic instability, violence and the kind of torment that only human beings can inflict on one another. But the fleeting moments of redemption, clarity and kindness that intersect these otherwise doomed lives keep the reader engaged and even, at times, hopeful.
Vance and Walls miraculously survive their circumstances. Although their lives may forever be marred by their experiences, their experiences don’t claim them. They excel academically, personally and professionally.
Why do I bring up these books? Because they show the world of child welfare. They show the days and nights, successes and failures of the more than 2,300 children known to judges who preside over dependency (i.e., child abuse) court cases in Marion, Lake, Sumter, Hernando and Citrus counties. They show that with help, these children and their families can overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.
That’s what the Guardian ad Litem Program does. We provide honest, caring and committed citizens with an opportunity to “right” children’s histories and change their lives for the better. Our volunteers are lay people who successfully complete criminal background checks, pre-service interviews and 30 hours of rigorous training. They work under the supervision of professionals and are able to lend a hand and offer a leg up. As volunteer child advocates, they are truly building healthy childhoods and strong communities.
As we approach the holiday season, I hope you will consider the remarkable stories of Vance and Walls – and the 2,300 children whose stories have yet to be told. I hope you will choose to volunteer with the Guardian ad Litem Program. For more information, please visit www.GuardianadLitem.org or call 352-812-6971.