Approximately nine children in 1,000 has been either abused or neglected in the United States. In 2013, the number of victims was estimated at 679,000 children.
“1,250 children were reported to have died from abuse or neglect. More than 27% of victims were younger than 3 years.” (Administration for Children and Families)
“More than 91% of all victims were abused or neglected by one or both of their parents.” (ACF)
The child has no choice. He or she was born into that family. “They were the parents I was given,” states a former foster child, now an adult.
Childhelp reports that there are 3 million reports of child abuse yearly, involving “more than 6 million children.”
In the United States there is help for children. Each year 3 million children are “subject to an investigated report and 6.3 million children are referred to state child protective services.” (Childhelp.org)
Childhelp.org states that this affliction within our society is a hidden epidemic or a war against our children.
ChildWelfare.gov states that physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect are recognized by all 50 states.
Child abuse and neglect cause negative effects in a child’s day-to-day living and during the remainder of his or her life, such as: developmental disabilities, socializing problems, poor school performance, depression and suicide attempts, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and adult criminality. (ChildWelfare.gov)
When children are living in unstable families, they are often removed by a state’s Department for Children and Families (DCF) for their own well-being. Though for their benefit, children do not like the separation and this traumatizes them. Yet, their removal is necessary. The separation prevents further abuse, neglect, and abandonment, and will even prevent their deaths.
Approximately four to seven children die daily due to their bad home lives, according to Childhelp.org.
After the child has been removed, he or she is placed in a protective environment, most often a foster home. Additionally, the child is assigned a Guardian ad Litem to assist him or her throughout the fostering process until a resolution occurs.
A Guardian ad Litem is a person appointed by the court to act as a friend for a child; he or she will also investigate matters regarding the child’s well-being (talk to his teacher, request school records, recommend tutoring, request medical evaluations, etc..)
In 1975, the Guardian ad Litem program went into action in Florida. Volunteers were recruited and trained. 40 years later, in 2015, there are 9,973 certified case volunteers in the state. Though a significant number, there is still a shortage. In St. Lucie County alone, 100 more volunteers are still needed--in the State of Florida, about 14,000 children reside in foster care. (AdoptUSKids)
Guardian ad Litem is still a volunteer program. Those who give their time and gas do so because they care about children, and their outcome.
Floyd McPhee was Guardian Ad Litem of the Year in 2012. A full-time employee of the State of Florida Transportation Department, he has given volunteer service for the needs of foster children for the last five years. He enjoys seeing the positive change in the children. “I love them like they’re my own blood,” Floyd adds. He checks on his children at least every two weeks. ‘Are they safe?’ ‘Do they have special needs that are being met?’ Floyd asks himself. “Every child needs emotional nurture for healthy brain development. They need love, attention, to feel wanted, and when possible, have time with their biological parents,” Mr. McPhee relates.
Floyd McPhee has supervised parent visits, written reports for the court about his observations, and when necessary, has spoken for the child in the courtroom. His joy is seeing a child reunited with their own biological family or witnessing their legal adoption.
As the hidden epidemic of child abuse in all its forms, neglect and abandonment continues, it is important to remember Floyd McPhee’s words, “There are children who need your help; they are lonely and looking for love; they need to know that they’re wanted.”
The Guardian ad Litem is in a supportive role — one that nurtures and provides hope to the child. “One thing I’ve learned,” Mr. McPhee adds, “never give up on anyone, especially a child. They can change and turn around in even a short time.”
Floyd McPhee is the father of five and grandfather of seven. He is also one of 10 children born to his parents in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. When Floyd was 10 years old, the McPhee family immigrated to the United States. Mr. McPhee grew up in Fort Pierce, Florida, graduating from Fort Pierce Central High School. He knows the city, the people, and many of the children. Floyd McPhee is also an author; he has written the first installment of a romantic fiction series--Just Friends, which takes place in his native Bahamas.
Floyd McPhee is certified by the State of Florida as a Guardian ad Litem and has spent 30 hours in training, in addition to continuing education each year. For each child he represents, he estimates that he spends seven to eight hours a month as the eyes and ears on the ground for the Department of Children and Families.
It is people like Floyd McPhee who take the time to change a life, which breaks the cycle of abuse. Each and every child is an important part of the United States. These children are a part of the fabric of American culture; their future is also our future. Floyd McPhee is “For the Child.” As Americans, we must all be “For the Child.”
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© 2015 "Hometown Heroes" Kelly Jadon