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Volunteers sought to be children's voice in court

The Guardian ad Litem program will host a training session for volunteers at 8:30 a.m. July 10 at St. Joseph's Women's Hospital, 3030 W Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Volunteers speak for a child in court during custody cases and before state Health and Rehabilitative Services and community agency hearings.

Volunteers must be at least 19. They are screened through law enforcement and abuse registry background checks.

They do not have to be lawyers or professionals. No background in law or social services is required. Volunteers must complete a 52-hour, three-week training course before taking their first case.

"Our role is to get to know the children, to try and understand what brought them into the system and to try and get them back into the safest, most permanent, stable situation available," said volunteer Freda Williams.

"All too often these children become victims of the very system designed to protect them," said program director Kathy Kliemann.

The guardians often fight to make services available to the child and family in the home so that children do not have to be removed but can remain with their parents, she said.

The state doesn't have the resources to address all the problems the families have, and guardians are forced to take on an overburdened, underfunded bureaucracy, Kliemann said.

"I hope that more people decide to become part of the answer to the horror of child abuse, because no child should face his day in court alone," she said.

For information, call Yolanda Sanchez at 272-5110.

Program seeks

host families

Hillsborough County families that would like to host an exchange student are being sought by the American Institute for Foreign Study Foundation's Academic Year in America high school exchange program.

Students 15 to 18 years old from Brazil, Germany, Indonesia, China, Russia and other countries will arrive in August. They will spend five to 10 months attending local high schools and living with Tampa area families.

All have studied English, have their own spending money and full medical insurance.

The foundation's goal is to teach these students about American culture. Families who host the students can share their traditions and values with the students and learn about their languages and customs.

Host families will receive up to $800 in scholarship funds to be used on AIFS travel and study abroad programs.

Host families do not need to have children. They are invited to choose the boy or girl who would best fit their lifestyles and interests. Hosting can be August through December, January through June or August through June.

For information, call Sallie Napoli, local coordinator, at 646-4882.