Every year, more than 103 children are abused and neglected in Jackson, Swain, and Macon County. Abused and neglected cases often result in the children being placed in foster care where they remain without a voice and may become lost in the child welfare system.
Judges depend on testimony and reports from interested parties to inform them on how to protect each child from further harm. The Guardian Ad Litem Program, affiliated with the National CASA Association, is a nonprofit organization that trains community volunteers to be the voice for these children.
In 1983, the North Carolina Legislature created a statewide program to provide children with an independent voice and to advocate for abused and neglected children who are involved in court proceedings. A volunteer Guardian Ad Litem and an Attorney Advocate are jointly appointed by a judge. Their duty is to ensure protections of the child’s legal rights and to promote the best interests of the child.
Guardian Ad Litems (GAL) are a diverse group of everyday people who care about children’s well being. They have time to volunteer and the commitment to work with the court system to build a better future for abused and neglected children. Most volunteers spend four to six hours per month on the child’s case which includes learning about the child’s situation, talking to the child, caregivers, professionals and others involved in the child’s life. A GAL must be objective and non-judgmental and be able to interact with people of various educational, economic and ethnic backgrounds. Our program requires 30 hours of training to ensure that you are ready to carry out your role as an informed and knowledgeable child advocate.
The GAL program thrives on volunteerism, and the vital work of the program is only made possible by dedicated volunteers who are committed to the cause of keeping children safe from future harm.
To rise to the challenge and become a GAL volunteer advocate, call (828)587-2087 or visit www.ncgal.org. You can also find out more about the program by visiting our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ncGuardianAdLitem.