Guardian Ad Litem: What It Is and Why You Should Be One

Last year I was introduced to a volunteer program that changed my life. The Guardian Ad Litem program is an amazing way for regular people to help children in need. It is a program made up of those who want to make a difference in the life of a child. I never thought I would have the time to volunteer, but thankfully I was able to make time. If you are interested in making a difference, then I highly recommend this wonderful volunteer opportunity.

Do you want to make a difference in the life of an at risk child? Then look into the CASA/ Guardian Ad Litem Program today!

CASA/ Guardian Ad Litem

As a mom, I am passionate about the well-being of children, even if they are not my own. When I was working as a paralegal, I was introduced to the Guardian Ad Litem program. I quickly signed up to volunteer and I loved every moment of it. That is not to say it was not without struggle, because some of the cases you see are truly heartbreaking. What makes it worth it is when the courts do their job and the children’s interests are protected. I truly believe in this program and I think that everyone who is able should look into being a volunteer.

What is a Guardian Ad Litem?

So many people have asked me this question. It seems the majority of people have not been exposed to the dependency system and therefore have no clue. A Guardian Ad Litem (GAL), also known as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) on a national level, is an individual who volunteers their time to advocate for children in dependency situations.  The GAL is the person in the court system whose sole purpose is to be an advocate for the best interest of the child.

What do they do?

The Guardian Ad Litem plays an important role in dependency cases. Once the Guardian Ad Litem program is assigned to a case, they will send one of their volunteers out to do a home visit. The GAL visits the child on a monthly basis and provides written reports to be entered into court records. During these visits the GAL will get to know the child, will observe the residence and the others living in the home. They will also communicate with parents and/or caregivers/foster parents as to their concerns. The GAL will also appear at court for all hearings. Also, the GAL will speak on the record as to their observations and recommendations.

Many guardians will also participate in activities with the children they are assigned to. They are able to (with permission) take them to and from sports or school functions. Some GAL volunteers also attend visitations with parents who may be incarcerated. During training, I remember being told our job is not to be a mentor, but to be an advocate, but many of the amazing individuals I met seem to do both and do it very well.

Why are they needed?

Now more than ever, there is a need for Guardian Ad Litem volunteers. According to a 2014 survey, there were over 400,000 children in the foster care system! The Guardian Ad Litem program is involved with these cases, as well as others where the child is not in foster care. There are a large number of cases where the child is in relative care or is still in parental care. These children need a voice, and that is what the GAL program is for. The volunteers speak up for these children when no one else will. They get attached to these kids, and they spend sleepless nights thinking about and praying for them. You can’t comprehend what some of these children have gone through, and you probably don’t want to, but they need a voice. In court, the Department of Children and Families, while they care about the child, they have a focus on the parents. Then there are the attorney’s for the parents, who obviously have their client’s interest to look out for. It is only the Guardian Ad Litem volunteers and attorneys who completely focus on the child, what they need, and how they can thrive.

How can I sign up?

First, you can go to the CASA website and look for a program in your area. All you have to do is enter your zip code and they will show you the programs in your area. You can then fill out a contact form and they will get back to you with the next steps.

The Guardian Ad Litem has a training course that all new volunteers must take. There is also an annual re certification. When I did my class, it was three days long. It lasted about 8 hours a day. The class will teach you everything that you need to know. Seasoned volunteers will present you with their stories and offer assistance to you. You will learn, probably more than you ever wanted to know about child abuse and neglect. The class is also great because you will meet other new volunteers who will be your support group.

Once you are certified, you will be given a case. You do not have to accept cases. You are given a choice as to the types of cases you are most comfortable with. For instance, male volunteers typically do not work cases involving teenage girls. When you have your first case, you will not be alone. You will be paired up with a mentor who will assist you. This mentor will be your lifeline and become your friend. I know the gentleman who I was paired with was such an amazing human being. He had a huge heart and truly loved what he did. I attended many of his hearings because I needed court observation time in order to complete my training. He also attended the initial visitation with me and my court hearings.

Well, What are you waiting for?

From the bottom of my heart, I believe this is an amazing organization. It is one that is near and dear to me. I plan on volunteering again once my son is a bit older because I loved it that much. The Guardian Ad Litem organization does so much good in the lives of children. As a volunteer, there is no better feeling than knowing you helped a child in need. These children need you. If you have the time and the desire, please look into volunteering with this wonderful organization. Please feel free to ask me any questions in the comments that you may have. It would be my pleasure to answer them for you. I can promise it will not be something that you will regret!

 

 

 

69 comments

  1. Amanda Love says:

    I think this is a wonderful program and it definitely hits home. Every child should have a bright future and it’s good to know that this organization is all about that. Thank you for being part of it.

  2. GlamKaren says:

    Thank you for sharing this information about this organization with us. I have not heard of them, but clearly they are doing so much good for children! Need more of this in the world.

  3. Wellchamps says:

    I knew little about this program, except that my boss always mentioned the kid that she is help with CASA kid. Now I know what she was talking about. Very informative post on such a nice program!

  4. everydaythoughtsbybrittany says:

    I had heard of CASA before but I never really knew what it was or what it did. Thank you for explaining it so plainly. It’s hard to believe that so many children are in foster care. The work you and the other volunteers are doing is simply wonderful. Thank you for your generosity to the children and your service to them and their families.

    • Jessi says:

      It’s a wonderful organization. I love the feeling of helping other kids. It really makes me appreciate mine even more as well.

  5. Karen Lyons says:

    This is interesting- I am familiar with this program. I had one for my child at a very young age and it was very expesnsive. This program must of changed/upgraded how the system works (for the better) back in the 80s for me, there was just a court appointed GAL, no home visit, just showed up for all court meetings.

    • Jessi says:

      Oh wow. I know it is a,bit different in different areas. I had a friend request a GAL for a custody case and it was expensive…I had never heard of having to pay for one before then. I sure,never got paid lol

  6. theclutterboxblog says:

    This sounds like a beautiful volunteer program. I would be utterly terrified to work directly with kids like this but as a kid who needed a person to be her voice growing up this is so amazing to find. I am glad you shared how it works.

  7. Michele says:

    You are an angel! I had no idea a lay person could be a guardian ad lidem. Sadly there is not a program in my county.
    Please continue this incredibly important work.

  8. Heather says:

    I have not heard of this program, but what a difference it must make. My mother worked for public schools for over 30 years and it is heartbreaking how many children need someone in their lives who care.

  9. GD Blog says:

    Wow…this is amazing. Volunteer programs like this are really helpful for kids. Not sure about this program yet, even my hubby who’s a SpEd teacher at school has not heard of this yet. Thanks for sharing this, this is a helpful one. 🙂

    -G of G&D Blog

  10. Lyd says:

    This program sounds so amazing. I love that you and others are helping kids through this!! I haven’t heard of GAL but I’d like to look into it

  11. Wren says:

    I love taking time to volunteer to help children and animals. Sorta my go to sorts of ways of giving back. I had not heard of this before, will have to look into that.

  12. workoutwithdi says:

    It’s so awesome that you do this! Great way to volunteer. When I had more freetime I used to volunteer at the animal shelter. Now I work more hours it’s tough to fit in around their opening hours.

  13. fashionphases says:

    Court Appointed Special Advocates is a great way to help children. I’m a little confused. I feel like professional social worker or counselors should be doing this type of work instead of volunteers.

    • Jessi says:

      The social workers do home visits as well. theirs is more in depth though. The GAL works closely with the social worker though. The social worker and GAL communicate regularly and exchange information.

  14. Tereza says:

    I’ve never heard of this before but it sounds like a wonderful programme that we are lacking in the UK – there’s not many programmes like that here at all! x

  15. Shaheen Khan says:

    Such a great initiative. I actually never heard of this program before so it really nice of you to create awareness for it. Children are so vulnerable and hesitant to voice their concerns. It’ s wonderful if volunteers can be mentors and advocates to help voice their issues.

  16. Kim Amy says:

    As an OT I’ve met a few GAL in IEP meetings and they truely have the child’s interests at heart. Love that you wrote this, I don’t think many people outside of child welfare and legal system know that this is a need for our children.

  17. Monique says:

    I’ve never heard of this program, but it sounds amazing. I just told my daughter now that she’s getting close to college age, I would start looking for volunteer programs allowing me to work with children. I’m glad I read this!

  18. Wanderlust Vegans says:

    This sounds like a great organisation. We often look into ways we can help kids, as we feel it is important to help the people who are already here. Which is why we aren’t having any children of our own. Once we have a house, we will be fostering children.

    • Jessi says:

      Fostering is amazing. I met a lot of awesome foster parents along my way. I would love to foster, but with our kids and our schedules we simply aren’t able to so this was my way of helping those kids 🙂

  19. thetaylor411 says:

    I have heard bits in pieces about this program but I wasn’t fully aware of everything about it. Thanks so much for explaining fully. Great program, anything to help children I’m all for.

  20. Traci York says:

    My parents fostered four girls back in the 70s, and I’d always wanted to do something similar. I hadn’t heard of this particular program, so I will definitely check it out!

  21. Jeanine says:

    This sounds like a great program. I hadn’t heard of this before but sounds like it does a lot of good and it’s something worth checking out!

  22. Andrea Broom says:

    I didn’t know much about this program, except that a coworker has talked about it. Now I understand more what she was talking about. Very informative post on such a nice program!

  23. Michelle from The Best Home Life says:

    Looks like a great organization to support. I didn’t know anything about this program before. Will be looking at there website to find out more. Thank you for introducing me 🙂

  24. thefashionableaccountant says:

    This sounds like such a great program. I didn’t know that this was something people could volunteer to do!

  25. wildandfreeoutdoors says:

    I have yet to hear about this organization, but I am glad you shed light on it… it sounds like such a great organization and it is definitely something very important.

  26. Lauren Cunningham says:

    Your passion and dedication to the Guardian Ad Litem program comes across so fully in this post. It’s inspiring to read about a woman who is immersed in the care of her young children ALSO give of her time and heart to volunteer. You have really made my conscience question if I’m doing enough. Thank you <3

  27. One Flawsome Momma says:

    What a wonderful way to volunteer your time! With so many kids in foster systems I have heard social workers being completely bogged down. This seems like a way for the children to be monitored regularly by someone advocating for them on a consistent basis. I am certainly interested in looking into this myself! Thanks so much for the info!

  28. Michelle says:

    My children have 2 GALs. One GAL is in Missouri, and one is in Tennessee. My ex husband and I have joint custody per our divorce, and he hid them from me for 2 years in Missouri, abusing them the entire time. When he was finally caught, he was charged with Abuse and Neglect of a Minor, a Class C felony. They have the GAL in Missouri for his cases with the Missouri Children’s Services and State of Missouri vs him. As I work to be awarded sole custody in Tennessee, they have also been appointed a GAL. The GAL in Missouri hasn’t done much to protect their best interests, as they are forced to have visits with their abuser, but the one in Tennessee is AMAZING! I am extremely thankful for her. I have made their best interests the center of my fight, and it’s nice to know they have someone else, a non-biased party, looking out for their interests, too. I love how she talks to them as though she feels what they have to say matters, because it does. It gives children a voice they wouldn’t normally have, and that’d amazing!

    • Jessi says:

      Your story just broke my heart. I pray you get your full custody! This is why I loved the program. I enjoyed being a voice for,the children

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