Guardian Ad Litem: Advocating for Every Child


Over the years, I have learned that being a mom comes with many different “titles.” We can be friends, cooks, organizers, chauffeurs, and event planners all in the same day!

However, there is another title that I hold close to my heart.

I am a proud Guardian Ad Litem volunteer.

Many people are unaware of that term or what a Guardian Ad Litem volunteer does. I did not know until we went through the adoption process for my son. It was then that I learned the important role a Guardian Ad Litem (or GAL for short) would play not only for us but for countless children.

After our GAL saw how I advocated for my son, he suggested that I become a volunteer and advocate for other children. I guess being a “mama bear” has its positives!

So, what is a GAL Volunteer?

A GAL volunteer is a regular, everyday citizen who is trained to represent abused, neglected, or abandoned children in court, school, or the community. Every volunteer is provided training and is court-appointed by the program. As a volunteer, you will also be provided with legal and social service support. 

Of course, given the sensitive nature of the child welfare system, there are requirements.

To become a GAL Volunteer, you must:

  • Be a Florida resident.
  • Be at least 21 years old.
  • Pass a thorough background check and provide references.
  • Complete the training and screening process.
  • Have computer access & skills.

These are the basic requirements. I personally think a heart for children is a must as well.

And, if you have those “mama bear” tendencies, then you will be a natural!

One of my favorite stories is from one of my first GAL kids. It was Christmas, and I brought her a scooter as a gift. Several months later, we were packing her up to be reunified with her mom. The little girl mentioned that the scooter I gave her was her favorite Christmas gift. I was surprised, knowing that she had received a lot of fabulous gifts that year. She continued, saying, “Ms Heather, it is my favorite because you showed up for me when you didn’t have to.”

If you would like to show up for a child in need, please contact Joan Irby at [email protected].



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Heather Shearer
Heather has called Pensacola home since 2004 (or as locals say, before Hurricane Ivan). She is a realtor with Levin Rinke Realty and enjoys sharing her love of the area with her clients. However, her favorite job is being mom to four kids: Kaitlyn (24), Greyson (21), Willa (12) and Kai (2). After the adoption of ther son from foster care, Heather developed a passion for advocating for foster children. She is a foster mom, Guardian Ad Litem, and serves on the NWFL Guardian Ad Litem Foundation Board. Heather and her husband, Bill, live on their "slice of paradise" on Pensacola Beach. Heather loves Jesus, tacos and The Dave Matthews Band. In her spare time, you might find her volunteering, boating or antiquing.


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