More than 2,400 abused and neglected children in our state go to court without someone to advocate for them. The North Carolina Guardian ad Litem Program has been working for 35 years to change that.
Iris Derrick, the Guardian ad Litem Regional Administrator for the Atlantic Cape Fear Region and Judge Fred Gore, from District 13, stopped by Good Morning Carolina to talk about the statewide program.
GAL pairs volunteers with children to help advocate for them in court, speak for their best interest and work side-by-side with an attorney.
When community members believe children are being abused or neglected by their parents or caretakers, they call the local Department of Social Services where each call is screened and investigated. If a situation is serious or requires the child to be removed from home and placed with a relative or in foster care, DSS files a petition and opens a case with the court. When the court becomes involved, the Guardian ad Litem Program appoints a trained community volunteer, a licensed attorney and a staff supervisor to work together to represent what is best for the child.
The GAL program has offices in each of the state’s 40 district court judicial districts.
Volunteers are asked to commit to serving one child from the beginning of their case until it ends, usually lasting 12-15 months. However, many volunteers stay with the program for years and provide advocacy for many children.
Volunteers can expect to interview family members, read the social worker’s notes, talk with the child’s therapist or school teacher, research what resources the family might be able to provide the child, accompany the child to court hearings, visit the child in their foster home placement, writes a court report for each hearing, attend in-service training and more.
For more information on the program or for an application to volunteer, visit www.volunteerforgal.org or call (800) 982-4041