This is a story with a happy ending, even though it starts out with the sad fact that each year, more than 1,000 children suffer such intense abuse or neglect at the hands of their parents that they end up being removed from their homes and taken into the custody of the state.
Readers of this column already know what a great job the Guardian ad Litem program is doing by advocating for these children in court. The 450 Guardians in our area work every day to insure that the outcomes for these children are the best possible ones that can be achieved.
But in each case, before we can get to what we hope will be a happy ending, children have to be taken to a safe place where they can grow and thrive while the courts, the case workers, the lawyers and the volunteer Guardians all work to make sure that whatever final resolution is reached, it's the best one possible for that particular child.
Unfortunately, this is not a quick process and children typically spend as many as 18 months in foster care before their case reaches its (hopefully) happy ending in a loving, permanent home.
In the meantime, the children in care have to live on the funds provided by the state. Not surprisingly, those funds can be sparse.
It's probably right that the government won't pay for a child's soccer uniform, or for gymnastic classes, or for guitar lessons and a dress to go to the prom. But that doesn't mean that kids don't want to take part in those activities.
The Children's Guardian Fund was founded in response to the need for money to cover the little "luxuries" that most of us would say are simply part of a normal childhood.
The founders, themselves all volunteer Guardians, wanted to be sure that when children are forcibly removed from their parents, they don't also lose access to most of the normal small joys of childhood.
This holiday season, for the sixth year in a row, we have once again been fortunate enough to receive a major gift from the Apisdorf Foundation. We received 1,000 Wal-Mart Gift cards, for a total value of $25,000 to be delivered by volunteer Guardians to the 1,300 children in foster care.
Tom Huebner, president of the Venice-based organization, noted how happy he is to be in a position to authorize this gift.
"Our emphasis has always been on children, and we think the Guardian ad Litem program fulfills a real need," Huebner said.
"The winners here are the children."
Since it was founded16 years ago, the Chil-dren's Guardian Fundhas successfully provided children in state carewith extras ranging from birthday cakes with candles and balloons, to acouple of weeks spentat summer camp, to uniforms and equipmentthat they need in or-der to start a college course as they age out of care.
We are very gratefulfor the generosity ofpeople in this community and the fact that the money we raise makes a positive difference in the lives of the children unlucky enough to be neglected or abused by their birth families.
Jasmine Candlish, president of The Children's Guardian Fund, heads the 501(3)c charitable organization that raises funds to support the Guardian ad Litem program and the 1,300 children in state care. Through its Next Step Program, The Children's Guardian Fund also provides financial assistance and mentoring to teens aging out of the foster care system.