The NWF Daily News recently spoke with Taylor Bryant, a former foster child, and Donna Franke, a guardian ad litem in Florida. Taylor’s story could be any foster child’s story — one fraught with heartache and fear, concern and uncertainty. But Taylor had Donna, who was an advocate and a friend.
In 1980 Florida’s legislature allocated $200,000 to create and begin running a guardian ad litem program. Florida was the first state to use general revenue for this purpose. A guardian ad litem is an individual who is court appointed as a special advocate to be the voice of the foster child. The Florida program offers training for volunteers as well as professionals who wish to be advocates for these children.
Donna Franke shared her experience with the Daily News. She was studying to be a social worker when she picked up a brochure and read about the opportunity. After completing an application and a background check, Franke took the 30 hour training course and was sworn in by a judge as a guardian ad litem. Instant bonding took place when she met the first youth she would advocate for. Since that time, the foster child has grown up, moved away, and moved on with her life. But Donna Franke stays in touch. For her, it’s not just a volunteer position. It’s in her heart.
For Taylor, Donna has been a Godsend. “She encourages me to be a better person. She pushes me like a mother would. That’s something I haven’t had in my life before,” she told the Daily News. Taylor is now living in an apartment and working toward her GED. Donna continues to be a part of Taylor’s life as she moves toward adulthood.
Those interested in becoming a guardian ad litem are invited to fill out the application and begin the simple process. Donations are also welcome, to help strengthen the program.