represented more than 37,000 children throughout Florida,
and Bujeda says there is always a need for volunteers, particularly
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Voices for Children of Okeechobee and the Treasure Coast,
the nonprofit organization that supports the GAL program,
Fort Pierce. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a
GAL, visit https://voicesforchildrenotc.org/becomeagal/
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WANT TO VOLUNTEER?
is located in The Sunrise Center, 300 Orange Ave.,
for additional information.
Port St. Lucie Magazine 19
since the pandemic shifted so many lives.
Tenpas says more of the cases he and his fellow GALs are
assigned in recent years are addiction cases.
“It wasn’t always that way,” he says. “Addiction seems to
have gotten worse. Both of my cases right now are addiction
cases. I have a case now where the parents are not in compliance
and aren’t following up with drug testing.
“As much as I want to see the child home with the parent,
it’s all about what is best for the child. Lots of times, parents
must show the court that they are ready to step up and be
good parents. When they do, it’s the best feeling for all of
According to Tenpas, many guardian ad litems are older
adults and the COVID lockdown was hard because some
didn’t feel comfortable doing the job well virtually. The pandemic
also seemed to have a strange effect on the number of
cases in the courts, too.
“While we were going through COVID,” says Tenpas, who
also served as a board member and president of the board for
the GAL program, “we were allowed to do virtual visits, so
we did a lot of visits with our phones and via Zoom, but we
had fewer cases too.”
Tenpas wondered if the drop in cases was because many
are referred by teachers and with the schools being closed,
teachers couldn’t see possible injuries to report. He says
that the number of cases in the 19th Judicial Circuit, which
encompasses St. Lucie, Indian River, Martin, and Okeechobee
counties, has been as high as 900 in the past, but it was as
low as 600 during the pandemic lockdown. Most of his cases
involve Port St. Lucie children and their families.
Tenpas says his supervisors from the state Guardian ad
Litem office send a small background of upcoming cases to
volunteers and the volunteers sign up based on their time
availability and interest.
“I represent the children and make sure they are taken
care of at home and in their school setting. I try to establish a
relationship with the teacher as well to help ensure that they
keep their eyes and ears open, too.” >>
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Get connected at www.cscslc.org to learn more about the Children's Services
Council of St. Lucie County and the resources available for you and your family.