Some of my community already know, but if you weren’t aware, I am a volunteer Guardian ad Litem.
What is a Guardian ad Litem? A Guardian ad Litem is an advocate for a child whose welfare is a matter of concern for the court. In legal terms, it means “guardian for the lawsuit”. When the court is making decisions that will affect a child’s future, the child needs and deserves a spokesperson – an objective adult to provide independent information about the best interests of the child. While other parties in the case are concerned about the child, the Guardian ad Litem is the only person in the case whose sole concern is the best interests of the child, and is assigned as an advocate for the child for the duration of the court process.
In other words, it is a tremendous responsibility that I take very seriously.
Guardian ad Litem truisms:
- There are no ‘easy’ cases.
- Just because you can have babies doesn’t always mean you should.
- The good news is, you were born so you have a chance; the bad news is, you were not born in the lucky sperm pool, so your chances of success were greatly diminished.
- Whatever your frame of reference for normal is, fuhgeddaboutit.
- If a child has been removed from the home, there was a reason and usually it involves something pretty bad.
Tell me about a case
For obvious reasons the information I have access to is confidential; but I do have access to everything including medical records, police reports, psych evaluation, report cards, etc.
I won’t go into specifics, but I have just accepted a new case that will be very challenging. The 5 children (all under 5) have been removed from the home.
In this situation, the parents want their kids back; meaning they are willing to comply with any case plan DCF puts together for them. Due to the extreme nature of this case however, complying with the case plan is still no guarantee they will get them back.
In most cases, reunification is the least bad of the three options; with the options being reunification in less than an ideal home situation, foster care w/ possible adoption, or group foster home when there is nowhere else for the child to be placed.
I am not the ultimate decider, but my opinion does carry weight. This particular case has a long way to go, but I have a feeling it will be a difficult one.
What, if in your gut you know if these kids come back home, their chances of succeeding, being productive members of society, are almost nil? However, if the recommendation is termination of parental rights, I know with almost 99% certainty these kids will be separated and placed in different foster homes.
Tough choices indeed and I feel ‘family‘ carries the most weight but what if keeping them together is dooming these kids to failure? Who am I to make that recommendation? I’m only one voice however as it is a collaborative effort with the social service agencies trying to reach a consensus, but these are the choices being discussed.
I just want to make a difference in someone’s life
Another truism I forgot to mention is, most successes, if any, are not easily identifiable. Just because I get involved in a troubled kid’s life and try to be a positive influence, there is no guarantee they will finally see the ‘light’ and and instantly become model citizens.
However, I also believe there are no throw-away kids and if you are on the team of ‘life’, then put me in coach, just give me a chance…..
Does that make me special? Absolutely not, but it sure has taught me humility and to be thankful for what I do have. I am probably learning more life lessons being involved in this than in any other endeavor I have done, including raising my own family.
Let’s just say, when you think you are having a bad day; you probably have no idea of what ‘bad’ really looks like.