Volunteers Make a Huge Difference for Broward County’s Most Vulnerable through the Guardian Ad Litem Program

Retired Miami-Dade Police Detective and Hostage Negotiator Tom Hixon is a serious man. During his career in the Police force he saw firsthand how children’s lives can be upended from an early age. This is part of the reason Tom chose to become a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) .

Guardians ad Litem are court-appointed advocates who represent the best interests of children who have been removed from their home due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. These unpaid volunteers act as a child’s advocate and as a mentor during what is typically the most disruptive moments of his or her young life.

Tom’s first case was a case involving a young man with both emotional and legal challenges. He had been in and out of the juvenile justice system for some time. Tom was referred to the case just after the young man had been placed is a residential treatment facility.

Tom is a man of great presence. His calm and compassionate demeaner was exactly what this young man needed.  Tom’s used his career as a police detective to help him make a connection with his mentee. It took time, but now Tom receives calls form him for guidance. Tom is the one constant male influence that this young man has ever had.

According to Kerry-Ann Brown, GAL’s volunteer recruiter, “The program represents over 2,700 children in the dependency system in Broward County and there is a great need for volunteers.  There are no specific educational requirements, as we train our volunteers.  You just have to have the heart and be ready to give your time to be a Voice for a child.”

Children who have a Guardian ad Litem volunteer do better in school, find a safe permanent home more quickly, are less likely to return to foster care and receive more services to help them than children in similar circumstances without one. Unfortunately, Broward County has only half the number of volunteers needed.