Councilman Jon Burgess introduced Angie Chirino, a representative of the Voices For Children Foundation, during the February City Council presentations. Voices For Children, which has been serving the community for more than 32 years, raises support for the Guardian ad Litem Program (GAL) to recruit, train and support volunteers to serve as the “Voice” for the approximately 3,000 abused, abandoned and neglected children in foster care in Miami-Dade County.
Councilman Burgess explained, “Voices For Children goes around Miami-Dade County to help find people [to] be a voice for the children that are in foster care and without a home.” He continued, “You know, we have so many fortunate children that [are] here tonight with their families,” noting the many children, youth and parents that were present related to the Council’s presentations to the Homestead Youth Council, the 2017 AYSO Region 805 All Stars Teams and students from “The Town of Roxaboxen” at First United Methodist Christian School. He added, “[Angie’s] going to speak about less fortunate children in our county so that we may be able to help one way or another.”
“I’m here to speak about a very special group of children right here in your community,” said Chirino. She opened her presentation by showing a powerful video, which made the point that foster children — like all children — start out in life with many dreams, but face profound obstacles and odds, which drastically stunt the possibilities in their lives. It challenged viewers to “Make a difference, Change their future.”
According to Chirino, one in five foster children will become homeless by the age of 18 and only half of them will be employed by the time they are 24 years old. She noted that one of the biggest issues in the child welfare system are the huge social costs — approximately $300,000 — that are incurred for every young person who “ages out” of foster care over the course of his or her life.
She said, “Every day in Florida, children are removed from their homes because their parents are unable to love and care for them the way they’re supposed to. Maybe they don’t have the skills. Maybe they have other problems — drugs, violence, mental illness. Maybe it’s all of the above.”
Continuing, Chirino said, “But every child deserves to know and feel love and that’s where you can make a difference. They say it takes a village to raise a child. In the village of Homestead, there are approximately 450 children that are currently in foster care. She explained that 318 had been appointed a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) by the state — individuals on staff, with salaries. An additional 126 have GAL representation from volunteers recruited and trained by the Voices For Children Foundation.
Chirino, a Guardian ad Litem herself, explained that a child with a GAL volunteer spends less time in foster care and is more likely to be adopted. Guardians ad Litem make sure children do not get lost in an overburdened legal and social service system or languish in an inappropriate home or shelter. She said that children with GAL representation “will be more likely to have a consistent, responsible adult presence in their lives and less likely to have poor conduct in school, less likely to get expelled and more likely to pass all courses.”
For more information on the Voices For Children Foundation and how you can help foster children in the community, please visit beavoice.org.