CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There are kids in our community falling through the cracks. The foster care system is overloaded. They have no home, no voice.
But a group of women in our area are trying to change that – and want you to think about getting involved.
RJ Puckett delights in the little things.
He loves his job at Special Treasures – a Goodwill type store in Iredell County that raises money for kids who have been or are still in foster care.
Now 22 he says, “I came in DSS custody. Basically my mama wasn’t treating us right.”
He was 11 with no one looking out for him. Until the court gave him what’s called a guardian ad Litem.
“We are the voice of the child,” volunteer Vera Dial explains.
“How important was she to you? Shes very important, she means the whole world to me. why? Shes like my mama. She was there when nobody was,” RJ says.
Brenda Speece was his advocate all those years ago…and still is.
“He is, aw Jesus, he’s very special,” she says getting emotional.
The Guardian ad Liem program is all volunteer – they are the only people solely charged with looking out for a child's best interests in a court case where the kids have been taken from home for whatever reason.
“There are a lot of bad things that can happen if people are not looking out for these kids,” Penny Camp, another volunteer points out.
And that’s the problem – there aren’t enough volunteers to represent all the kids in North Carolina’s system.
In Iredell County alone, there are about 45 kids with no one assigned to look out for them.
“What happens to the kids when they don’t have an advocate? They get lost in the system and they fall through the cracks and they just eventually age out.”
That’s why these women are trying to get more people in the community to step up – to sign up – to be guardian ad litems.
RJ is sure without Brenda as his, he wouldn’t have made it.
“What if you didn’t have her fighting for you? I wouldn’t be here today. I’d probably be dead.”
You don’t have to have a legal background to be a Guardian ad Litem. They are all volunteers that go through special training.
If you’d like information on how you can get involved, check out www.volunteerforgal.org.