Friends of Moore GAL Host Greensboro Author Rob Mitchell
Thirty-five years ago, the Guardian ad Litem program had its beginnings in the courtroom of a Seattle judge, as he realized the need for representation of abused and neglected children.
Since that time, every state, including North Carolina, has enacted legislation setting up programs involving trained volunteers who speak for displaced and forgotten children. In Moore County there is also a little-known auxiliary nonprofit organization which supports the local GAL program.
Friends of Moore Guardian ad Litem provides opportunities and services for GAL children, presents in-service education for GAL volunteers and promotes community awareness of the children who are helped by the GAL program. Last year, the local GAL program served 120 children, many of whom are in foster care, and research indicates that these children often face enormous challenges as they grow up.
On Sept. 10, just such a youngster, who has matured into a successful, creative adult, was the guest speaker at an in-service luncheon for GAL volunteers, Department of Social services staff, foster parents and others who work with at-risk children.
Rob Mitchell is the author of "Castaway Kid," in which he details his own pathway from the harshest of circumstances to a meaningful life as the senior vice president for a national brokerage firm. He and his wife of more than 25 years have raised two children, who call him "one of their best friends," and he is active in his church and in a Christian businessmen's committee.
Mitchell referred to his own story of anger, loneliness and hopelessness of being left in an orphanage during his childhood and adolescence.
"I rose above my circumstances because of ordinary people who came into my life at certain times," he says. "They didn't preach to me, but just spent time with me. Love is a four letter word, spelled T-I-M-E. You don't have to be a psychologist, or a teacher or a juvenile justice worker to impact the life of a child -- you've got to keep showing up.
After addressing the adults, Rob Mitchell met with a gathering of young people who are in the Department of Social Services system. He shared with them his experiences from being abandoned at age 3, stuffed into an orphanage for 14 years, and left homeless at age 17. Consequently he had every excuse to have failed. However, as he says, "I came out whole. It's not easy but it can be done."
Mitchell recalls the two times in his life which he felt most desolate. When he was eight years old, his mother suddenly kidnapped him from the orphanage. At that age, he didn't realize that she had a history of alcohol abuse and mental illness, and they wandered around Chicago until the police found them.
"They didn't know what to do with me, so they put me in a juvenile detention facility. There I was behind bars, wondering what I had done to deserve this kind of treatment, until I was ultimately returned to the orphanage."
Mitchell hit bottom the second time during his junior year in high school, when his anger had blown him out of sports, and he was depending on alcohol and marijuana.
"I figured that I was doomed to be dead or in prison by the time I was 21, and there was no real hope for someone like me," he says.
Slowly he overcame his feelings of hopelessness, through a spiritual experience when he was a senior in high school, and by volunteering in the mission field in the Congo, where he says he realized that God is not just a god of white-skinned Americans, and that he wasn't invisible to God in Africa, any more than he had been invisible to God in the orphanage.
Forgiving his parents and other relatives who had abandoned him is described in the pages of Mitchell's book, "Castaway Kid." It was a process that took Mitchell several months to complete effectively, since he emphasizes that forgiveness does not come at the blink of an eye and it is a real test of one's faith.
The feelings of anger, frustration, loneliness, of being unloved and unwanted, and being overwhelmed by other people's actions expressed by Rob Mitchell have been shared to some degree by the children who are the focus of Guardian ad Litem.
The Friends of Moore Guardian ad Litem make their lives a little better and easier in any number of ways. For instance, they recently purchased a used mobile home for a young woman, who at 18, wanted to keep her siblings together. The parents had relinquished their parental rights, and the children had no place to live.
Each year before the beginning of school, the Friends purchase new backpacks for each GAL child in the county and fill them with school supplies. Another way in which they make a difference is to send children to camp during the summer months, providing the necessary equipment.
The Friends of Moore Guardian ad Litem are a caring example of one of Rob Mitchell's most valid observations, "At-risk kids don't care how much education you have or what kind of a house you live in, or the clothes you wear; they just want to be able to count on your being there."
For more information about the work of Friends of Moore Guardian ad Litem, contact Barbara Coleman at 692-5810.
Contact Mary Elle Hunter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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