BRADENTON -- Some people were meant to help children.
And 63-year-old Jeremy Carter is one of those people.
For the last four years, Carter, who lives in Bradenton, has served as a Guardian ad Litem, an advocate for children in the state welfare system. He is one of more than 400 volunteers in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court District's Guardian ad Litem Program, which serves 1,100 youths in foster care in Manatee, Sarasota and DeSoto counties.
Carter monitors eight teenagers, some of whom live in group homes and juvenile justice commitment programs or have aged out of the system.
Shortly after retiring in 2006 from a 35-year career as an international educator, Carter, who was born in England, moved to Bradenton to retire. His neighbors were guardians and became more intrigued when he read a novel in which the lead character was a guardian.
Carter couldn't ignore the signs, nor the feeling in his heart.
"What I find is the kids really appreciate that someone has taken an interest in them," he said.
Years as an international educator helped shaped his new occupation. Carter started teaching in 1971 and taught for 10 years in England. He then worked as a principal at international institutions in Pakistan, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Jordan and South Africa.
"As a school administrator, you do come across kids with an unsatisfactory school environment, but you don't get that many," he said. "As a principal I had to deal with kids that weren't being well treated at home or had nonfunctioning relationships with their parents. In those situations, it was more reactive instead of proactive."
Pam Hindman, 12th Circuit director, said a significant number of volunteers are retired professionals such as Carter.
"The whole idea with most of them is they want to give back and feel like they're making some kind of contribution," she said. "They really have opportunity to impact the life of a child."
Jan Vestal, Guardian ad Litem supervisor for the 12th Circuit, said rarely do guardians volunteer to work with teens and applauded Carter for his service.
"He works with a very difficult group of kids," she said.
"I tell the kids I'll never lie to them and never make a promise I can't keep," Carter said. "They respect that."
Guardians are advocates for abused, neglected and abandoned children in state care and act as the eyes and ears for the judge during court proceedings and in meetings with caseworkers. The guardians monitor the child's progress and ensure the youth's needs are being met.
"We give them birthday cards and Christmas presents," Carter said. "To kids in shelter, it means a lot."
Though Carter has taught all over the world, he said one doesn't need an impressive resume to help children.
"All you need to is be caring and patient."
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams.