Guardian Ad Litem The Guardian Ad Litem Program represents children who appear in the state courts. These children have not committed any crime but are victims of abuse, neglect or abandonment. The program is comprised of volunteers who represent children in the courts, making sure they do not become victims of “the system”. Each volunteer works with one or more children involved in the judicial system and social services agencies, becoming familiar with there lives, while representing the interest of each child before the court or social services agencies involved. Specifically, a volunteer acts in the interest of each child in five different capacities.
First, as an investigator, a guardian learns as much as possible about the child’ background (i.e. school, church, friends, and any other people/organizations that affect the child). As a monitor, a guardian makes sure social services agencies, and any other organizations involved with the child are meeting their responsibilities to the child. As a protector, a guardian prevents insensitive questioning in the courts that is very often commonplace. As a reporter, a guardian is a liaison between the child and the courts, presenting written reports and recommendations to help act in the child’s best interests. Finally, as a spokesperson, a guardian makes sure the child’s wishes are heard and their best interests are presented to the courts and social services agencies involved with the child.
Qualifications to be a Guardian Ad Litem are: at least 19 years old; pass screenings with law enforcement agencies, the Abuse Registry, and Guardian Ad Litem staff; and have a genuine concern for a child’s welfare. No prior experience is necessary as each volunteer goes through 48 hours of training, ranging from juvenile justice, child development, and child abuse and neglect. Professional full-time staff are also available for volunteers’ questions and concerns. Time commitment will vary, depending on the child’s needs and the volunteers own schedule. Efforts are made to match a volunteer with time constraints with a child who needs less representation. As lifestyles and family priorities change in our society, there is a growing demand for volunteers.