State GAL Executive Director visits Monroe volunteers

State GAL Executive Director visits Monroe volunteers

Abramowitz takes time to hear concerns

The third time was a charm for Alan Abramowitz.

The seasoned juvenile justice attorney and long-time program head for the state’s Department of Children and Families applied for the Executive Director position with the state Guardian ad Litem three times before he finally got the job late last year

“The first time I applied through People First, and failed to see that they were only accepting applications by fax,” he laughed. “I knew then that it just wasn’t the right time yet.”

This week, he traveled to Monroe County to meet with volunteers in the 16th Judicial Circuit to discuss obstacles they face when advocating for abused, abandoned and neglected children when navigating the court system.

“A child in foster care may have 18 case workers, but they have that one Guardian ad Litem volunteer who is a constant,” he conveyed, commending the program for providing a sense of stability in the midst of often incredibly tumultuous living situations.

Pictured (l-r) are: Kathy Lasseter, Michelle Coldiron, Phyllis Mitchell, Alan Abramowitz, Adriana Garcia (named Monroe County’s Volunteer of the Year) Alexsa Leto, Tom Hampton, Sherry Wright and Chris Zeher.

His pre-destined path perhaps began in college when both his chemistry professor and familiar acquaintance both committed suicide. Abramowitz, a product of a military family accustomed to frequent moves, began volunteering with the college’s suicide hotline at Kansas State University where he earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree. At 48, his resume also includes service in the U.S. Army Reserve and Florida Army National Guard as well as two years with the Peace Corp in Thailand.

After serving as an assistant public defender for the 10th Judicial Circuit from 1992 to 1996 and then advancing to assistant general counsel for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, at Bob Butterworth’s urging, Abramowitz transitioned into his previously held Florida Department of Children and Families post.

He pointed to the case of 6-year-old Lake County girl Kayla McKean who was killed by her father on Thanksgiving in November of 1998 as the impetus for his pursuit of a career in juvenile justice.

“You especially don’t turn down an opportunity when Bob Butterworth [the state’s longest serving Attorney General, 1986-2002] is asking you to do something,” the father of two professed.

Shortly after his arrival in Miami Wednesday afternoon, Abramowitz joined a host of volunteers and employees of the Monroe County Guardian ad Litem program at the home of Florida Keys Voices board chair Kathy Lasseter. Voices is the volunteer fundraising arm that supports the GAL in helping send kids to summer camp, purchase back to school clothes or fulfill any needs of a child in the system.

He listened intently to volunteers who shared concerns over their cases locally and offered feedback for ensuring that children in the southernmost rural communities operating in the court system can still be assured access to services like family counseling, medical services and educational and developmental opportunities.

Countless news reports following the gruesome discovery of 11-year-old Nubia Barahona’s dead body wrapped in blankets in the bed of a truck along I-95 in West Palm Beach earlier this year point only to a Guardian Ad Litem who expressed concern over the adoption of twins Victor and Nubia by foster parents Jorge and Carmen Barahona.

Abramowitz said several representatives at the state level have volunteered with the GAL in the past and have even adopted children out of the system. With the proven track record of advocating for children who do not have a voice, he’s proud the program received no funding cuts at the state level and is hoping a $3.1 million budget request will help continue the organization’s mission for another year.

For more information about how you can become a volunteer or get involved with the Florida Guardian ad Litem program, visit www.guardianadlitem.org.

 

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