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The Brown County Guardian Ad Litem Program is a program of the Brown County Circuit Court, which uses trained volunteers to serve as court appointed special advocates who are committed to representing the best interests of children who are at risk of abuse or neglect. The Brown County Guardian Ad Litem Program recruits, trains and supports volunteers in this effort. GAL volunteers make recommendations regarding appropriate protective and rehabilitative services to ensure a safe and permanent home for every child adjudicated to be a Child In Need of Services, and/or children involved in other litigation who need an advocate.
A Guardian Ad Litem is a trained volunteer who is appointed by a judge to represent the interests of a child in court. Many of the children are victims of abuse or neglect and are in need of services from the state. A GAL will carefully research their case, getting to know the child well and speaking to all the parties involved: parents, members of the family, teachers, counselors, etc. They will report their findings to the judge, to help the court to make the best decisions for the child's future. A GAL volunteer must determine whether it is in the child's best interest to stay with his or her parents or guardians, be in foster care, or freed for adoption. There are more than 57,000 Guardian Ad Litem volunteers and Court Appointed Special Advocates nationwide. They come from every walk of life. You do not have to be a lawyer or a social worker to be effective--all you need is the desire to help abused and neglected children find a safe, permanent home. As a volunteer, you will be given training by professionals in the legal and child services fields. A GAL volunteer will usually spend about ten hours visiting the child, conducting interviews and doing research prior to the first court hearing. Once a case is initiated, a volunteer will spend approximately 8-10 hours a month on it, until it is permanently resolved. One of the primary benefits of the GAL program is the consistency a GAL volunteer brings to the court proceedings, providing much-needed continuity for the child. Children with a GAL volunteer are substantially less likely to spend time in long-term foster care: 13.3% of cases versus 27% of all children in care. Cases involving a GAL volunteer are more likely to be "permanently closed". Just 9% of GAL children reenter the system-- in contrast to 16% of children not served by an advocate
- Sallyann Murphey
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