TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 10, 2017) — A trauma-sensitive interview room for abused, abandoned and neglected children will be officially opened at the Guardian ad Litem office in downtown Tampa this month. The room will be available to GAL program partners such as the State Attorney, the Attorney General, Public Defenders, and other community agencies who serve children in the Hillsborough dependency court system. It was created through the efforts of a Yale Alumni group, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place on October 17, 2017 from 4 to 6pm.
Voices for Children (VFC) is the non-profit partner of the GAL program and the sponsors of Florida’s first courthouse facility dog, Tibet. Last fall, a documentary about Tibet was produced by HCP Associates and premiered at the 2017 Gasparilla International Film Festival, the film was also a Silver and Bronze winner in the 38th Annual Telly Awards. A group of Yale Alumni viewed the film and in another aspect of community collaboration, decided their Yale Day of Service project should benefit the children who have worked with Tibet. Tibet’s handler and GAL Volunteer, Brenda Kocher, explains how it came together. “Tibet and I work with children in the foster care system on trial preparation, depositions, and forensic interviewing on a regular basis, but we needed more trauma-sensitive spaces to use when talking with them,” she says. “After I researched guidelines from the National Children’s Alliance for forensic interview spaces, the Yale alums contributed money, time and labor to convert one of the rooms at the GAL office. With a limited budget in hand, Rooms To Go was approached for help furnishing the room. Richard Miller, VP of Operations and Planning with Rooms To Go, quickly opened his heart and store. “Although I went to Harvard,” Miller stated, “I wanted to us to work with the Yale club to do some good for the community.”
Guardian ad Litem and Voices for Children would like to thank Richard Miller and Rooms To Go and the Yale alumni who made this project possible: Judith (Judy) Bryant, PhD, developmental psychologist at USF ; Dana Daly, MD, Pediatric Associates of Ocala; Anne P. Eason, PhD psychologist in independent practice; and Jerome (Jerry) Yankowitz, MD, Chair of the USF OB/GYN Department. Tabitha Lambert, Circuit Director for the Hillsborough GAL office said, “There are over 3,600 children in our foster care system, more than anywhere else in Florida. We are grateful for the efforts of these generous individuals and the space which will now benefit so many of our children!”
For more information about volunteering as a GAL child advocate, call (813) 272-5110 or visit www.galtampa.org.
About Guardian ad Litem (GAL)
The Florida Guardian ad Litem Program is a partnership of community advocates and professional staff providing a powerful voice on behalf of Florida’s abused, abandoned and neglected children.