Volunteers needed to help be a voice for neglected and abused children in Guilford County

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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. – Neglected and abused children in our community need your help.

“In the last five years the number of children in the foster care system in Guilford County has increased by about 40 percent,” said Seth Houk, the district administrator for the Guardian Ad Litem program.

Houk said the spike is likely due to the opioid epidemic and the Guilford County Department of Social Services’ quick action to get children out of unsafe situations.

Now his group, which advocates for the kids in court, needs more volunteers to keep up with the demand. There are about 100 kids in Guilford County that do not have a volunteer assigned to them.

Francine Judd stepped up to be a voice for children about four years ago. She is one of about 150 volunteers for the Guardian Ad Litem program in the county.

“It’s hard work but it’s rewarding work,” Judd said.

She meets with her assigned children at least once a month, digs into their case and gives her recommendations for what’s best for them to a judge.

“Just recently I’m working with a family where the children were abused and neglected and now they’re in a stable pre-adoptive home,” Judd said.

Getting children into a safe, permanent home is the goal.

There were 510 kids in the system as of last week. To make sure all of them are served, Houk says there needs to be about 50 more volunteers.

“We are looking for people from all walks of life to come in and be the voice for children,” Houk said.

He said volunteers need to care about children and be willing to stick around for a while, cases often last around two years.

Although it is a long-term commitment, the hours are very flexible. Judd is a retired teacher, but Houk said 40 percent of the volunteers work full-time jobs.

“I feel like I have made a difference in the lives of the children,” Judd said. “The oldest girl I’ve worked with is now a senior in high school and now she’ll be going to college and I do still reach out and touch base with her.”

If you are interested in becoming a voice for a child, you can find volunteer information on the North Carolina Guardian Ad Litem website.

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