Neighbor since: 2000
Retired elementary school teacher Linda Suereth used to lead classrooms of children from varied backgrounds; many of them came from broken homes.
Now, in her 11th year as a volunteer in Florida’s Guardian ad Litem Program, Suereth sometimes attends parent-teacher conferences, at which she learns more about the lives of abused and neglected children.
She helps at-risk children navigate the complex court system, all the way to finding each child a permanent, safe home.
After taking on a case, Suereth first gets to know the child in his environment.
Inside the home, Suereth is often not alone: in uncomfortable situations, her husband, Skip, also a volunteer guardian, will accompany her for support.
Suereth seldom asks the children questions. She just listens for as long as it takes the courts to find a child a permanent home, which is often one year.
Most cases — Suereth has worked on 16 of them involving 36 children — end happily, and Suereth’s relationship continues thereafter.
Suereth regularly Facebook chats with a girl she once helped carry to permanency.
The girl is a woman now and she is pregnant with a child of her own.
IN HER OWN WORDS:
On developing trust with an abused child:
“I don’t ask a lot of questions. I try to develop a relationship. I play games with them. Sometimes, the child will teach me a game.”
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