Guardians speak up for local children in need

Lake Okeechobee News/Danika J. Hopper
Newly sworn in Guardians Ad Litems Dottie Seibel, Christine Eaton, Mary Pringle, Natalie Linares and Shannon Weller with Judge Sloan at the Hendry County Courthouse.

HENDRY COUNTY — Do you have love for children? Do you ever wonder how you could make a difference in the lives of children who have experienced abuse, been abandoned or suffered neglect? The Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) program is in search of more volunteers. This program is often the only consistency a child may experience while going through court. Often court cases may take longer than a year to close, and while a child is waiting, a GAL volunteer can offer friendship, mentorship and, most importantly, be their voice.

Recently five new Guardian ad Litems were sworn in at a ceremony at the Hendry County Courthouse. Dottie Seibel, Christine Eaton, Mary Pringle, Natalie Linares and Shannon Weller each took the Guardian Ad Litem Oath:

“I do solemnly swear that to the best of my ability I shall perform the duties assigned to me by statute. As a Guardian ad Litem, I shall abide by the orders of the court and ensure that orders are properly executed. I shall respect the confidentiality of all information or reports revealed to me. Unless entitled by law or authorized by court order, I shall not communicate to any person anything I learn or obtain from any report or record maintained. I shall serve faithfully and always represent the best interest of each child, until discharged by the court.”

“The Guardian ad Litem’s (GAL) mission is to advocate for the child’s best interests. GAL volunteers are appointed by the court to advocate for the best interest of a child during legal proceedings. Legal Education is not a requirement of being a GAL, having a heart for children is!” said newly sworn in GAL Natalie Linares. She went on to explain, “Locally, the 20th Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program supports volunteers advocating for children in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The 20th Circuit staff includes program attorneys and child advocacy coordinators located in four offices in Fort Myers, Naples, Port Charlotte and LaBelle, to support local volunteer Guardians ad Litem.”

Ms. Linares said she became a GAL because she, herself, had one when she was a very young child, and she wanted to be able to give back and make a difference for a child in need.

Program administrators said they need more volunteers to help out. If you’re interested in becoming a guardian ad litem, visit the website at

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