I want to wake up every day and do something that matters.
Meryl lives in The Villages, Florida, but she has had many residences and many experiences along the trail. She has also lived in New Jersey, the Virgin Islands and California. She has worked as everything from a secretary to the head of a 4000-person plumbing company. Meryl is an advocate for and has been a volunteer in the Florida Guardian ad Litem program for the past three years. Her initial supervisor in the program, Christina Messer, will be joining her on the cruise.
Guardian ad Litem is a legal program in which residents of the state advocate for the best interests of children who have been removed from their families due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Each volunteer receives 30 hours of training and undergoes a comprehensive background check before being approved. There are about 8000 volunteers in the state and about 30,000 children in the system. The program has proven to be effective in producing positive outcomes for the children. Why? Because social workers have so many cases, they can't put the time and effort needed into each case. Volunteers can.
Once Meryl is appointed to the case as a Guardian, she works closely with the court, the Department of Family Services, and the family to find the best solution for the child's future. She attends all hearings, submits reports to the court, visits regularly with the children, and becomes familiar with family members to learn the facts. Cases typically take about nine months to resolve. Most volunteers handle two or three cases a year. Meryl handles about ten a year, and has become the "go to" person for the most wrenching cases. Says Meryl: "You either put in the effort to handle the problem now or deal with these children in a couple of years in the criminal justice system. The problems are often devastating, but our efforts pay great dividends in the long term and help turn around the lives of many youngsters. It is incredibly gratifying work."