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District 9 Guardian ad Litem Program

Be the Voice for a Child

North Carolina General Statute 7A-493 covers this: “Any volunteer participating in a judicial proceeding… shall not be civilly liable for acts or omissions committed in connection with the proceeding if he acted in good faith and was not guilty of gross negligence.”

Initially, the volunteer goes through a 30-hour training curriculum. Depending on the individual case, approximately 8 hours per month will be spent in court, interviewing parties, and reviewing reports.

The GAL does not serve as the child’s legal guardian, has no control over the child’s person or property, and is not expected to provide a home for the child.

Frequently Asked Questions

A Guardian ad Litem is a trained advocate appointed by the court to advocate for the best interest of an abused or neglected child. In court, the GAL serves as an important voice for the child.

What is a Guardian ad Litem?

Is the GAL the child’s legal guardian?

How many hours must a GAL volunteer?

Is a GAL liable for his/her work?

All Website materials dapted from “Speak Up!” courtesy of Barbara King and Beverly Parker-Reece, 29th Judicial District and NCGAL brochures

“I was released from my first case after two years as her Guardian ad Litem. Her foster parents adopted her and the need for a Guardian ad Litem was over. I was amazed at her resilience and how the love and care of a new family made a difference in her life. I was glad to be there for her.”

-Valerie C.,

GAL Volunteer

 

Photo Credit National CASA

Is being a Guardian ad Litem dangerous?

We would never ask you to do anything or go anywhere that makes you feel unsafe. You can take a social worker, another GAL Program staff member, or police officer on a home visit if you need to. You can also arrange meetings in public places, such as a restaurant or a DSS office.

I work full time. Can I still be a Guardian ad Litem?

Many of our advocates have full-time jobs. Much of the work is done on the weekends, in the evenings, or on the telephone. You would need to obtain your employer’s permission to take off work when you have a court date (every three to six months, depending on the case).

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How many cases do I have to take?

We have no minimum number of cases for advocates. Each GAL accepts only as many cases as he/she has time to handle.

How is the Guardian ad Litem different from a social worker?

The social worker represents the Department of Social Services (DSS), which has legal custody of the child involved, and is charged with finding a permanent caregiver for the child. The social worker usually oversees several cases at a time. A GAL doesn’t have nearly as many cases and is able to devote more time to each case. The social worker has to provide the child with many services, while the GAL only advocates for the child’s needs in court.

May I take the child home with me or on special outings?

No. You also must not give significant gifts to the child. You are not a parent or caregiver. Your role is to investigate and observe in order to be a well-informed advocate. That in itself is an important gift to the child, but it requires good judgment, objectivity, and a clear understanding of your role.

I worry that the parents will resent me and be uncooperative.

It comes as a surprise to many people that parents are usually more than glad to tell their version of the events that have caused this case to come before the court. As a GAL advocate, you are just asking and listening at the outset, and most parents do not find this threatening.

How does a GAL investigate a case?

To prepare a recommendation, the GAL volunteer talks with the child(ren), parents, family members, social workers, school officials, health providers and others who are knowledgeable about the child’s history. The GAL volunteer also reviews all records pertaining to the child such as school, medical, and case worker reports.

Serving Franklin, Vance, Granville, and Warren Counties