TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - The foster care system can be a hard place to be for children who have been taken from their homes. However, in the midst of it all, the Guardian ad Litem program is a bright spot for many of the kids.
The program exists in counties across the Bay Area and provides children with a court-appointed volunteer. The volunteer is an advocate for the children in court, but more importantly, a friend behind the scenes.
Angel Guzman is a volunteer for Hillsborough County's program, but his relationship with the three siblings he advocates for is extremely special to him due to the similar experiences he faced as a child.
"When I was 4 years old, my parents said 'I don't want him anymore,'" said Guzman. "I went six years in the foster care system and when I was ten, I was adopted."
After his grandmother gave him a forever home, Guzman's life took on a whole new purpose. It's a second chance he hopes to give to other kids who are just like him.
"One person said yes to me, and I want to be that one person to the kid," said Guzman with tears in his eyes.
Guzman has served as a volunteer advocate for the past six months. He said that having a constant person in their life, is something that foster kids don't normally experience. He aspires to be that constant for the children.
"Many times these kids get disrupted in their homes and move to other homes," said Guzman. "Case managers come and go, but we want to make sure we're the same face, always there for them."
Hillsborough County currently has the highest population of foster children in Florida. With over 3,300 kids waiting to find their forever family, there isn't nearly enough volunteers to go around.
"Right now our program helps about 22-hundred children, so that leaves over a thousand children who are still in need of a volunteer," said Tabitha Lambert, a director with the Guardian ad Litem Program.
Guzman has witnessed firsthand the effectiveness of the program.
"Six months ago, when I went there, everything was rough. When I went two days ago, the oldest, he's 10, he was just named student of the month," stated Guzman proudly.
He's developed a bond with the kids he never imagined possible.
"I feel like I'm their best friend. I feel like we're buddies. I want to be there when they graduate, when they get married."
Most importantly, he makes sure he delivers a message to the kids that he wishes he'd heard during the days he spent in the system.
"I want them to know at the end of the day, there's hope, someone cares for them, someone loves them," said Guzman.
To find out how you can get involved with the Guardian ad Litem Program, visit guardianadlitem.org.