Becoming a Volunteer
Thank you for your interest in becoming a volunteer guardian ad litem!
What is a Child Advocate?
A child advocate is a person appointed by the Juvenile Court to represent the best interests of a child who is involved in a court proceeding. The official title of this person is guardian ad litem. Child advocates are men and women from all walks of life who volunteer for this role out of concern for the needs of children in our community.
Advocates have a significant impact on the important decisions the court will make about the child’s future.
Child advocates review written materials about the child’s situation. They visit the child and talk to family members, foster parents and caseworkers who have information about the child’s needs. Along with other professionals involved in the case, they attend court hearings and give the judge an opinion about the recommendations being made for the child and family. After the court makes a decision, the advocate follows-up the progress of the case to make sure the child and family are receiving needed services.
People who volunteer as child advocates take on a very important responsibility, but their duties are limited. They do not provide a home for the child and they have no control over the person or property of the child. The advocate is expected to think independently and objectively about each child’s case and work on behalf of that child’s best interests. Once the court’s involvement is over, the child advocate is dismissed.
Child advocates accept case assignments as their time and interest allow. Once the initial case review is complete, you can expect to spend about ten hours each month on each case you are assigned. You must be able to attend court hearings which are held during business hours.
Although some of the work can be done over the telephone, you must have daytime hours available to contact social workers, teachers, therapists and attorneys. Attending case meetings and visiting foster homes may be easier if you have the use of a care. You will be reimbursed for mileage/parking expenses or bus fare.
There is no special degree or educational requirement to be a child advocate volunteer. A concern for children and a willingness to speak up for a child’s best interests are the most important qualifications. You must be a responsible adult with good judgment and the common sense that comes with life experience. If you are patient and have the ability to understand children and families in stressful situations, you could make an excellent child advocate.
Please visit the National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) website for further information on what it means to be an advocate for children.
Read an Article by National Spokesperson Judge Glenda Hatchett (pdf)
Watch Dr. Phil's Promo Encouraging GAL Volunteerism
Frequently Asked Questions