How We Work
Volunteer Child Advocates play a crucial role in assisting overburdened courts to meet the needs of the region’s most vulnerable children. Judges assign the Guardian ad Litem Program to a case when they are concerned that a child is at risk of “falling through the cracks” because they are not getting their needs met while in foster care, relative/non-relative care, or in a shelter.
Our team recruits, trains and supports a cadre of more than 520 volunteers to give each child the individual and consistent attention that the child welfare system is not always able to provide. GAL staff members carefully match each child’s case with a Volunteer Child Advocate who is the best fit for the child and circumstances.
Volunteer Child Advocates work collaboratively with children, family members, caregivers, child welfare agencies, attorneys, educators and service providers to develop a comprehensive assessment of the needs of each child. They then work diligently to ensure that those needs are met and that any barriers to a child’s reunification with parents or adoption are addressed. They work to put services in place, cut through red tape and facilitate movement through the system so that children achieve a permanent, safe solution as quickly as possible.
The Volunteer Child Advocates also work to help ensure that teens aging out of the system have a place to live, an income/job or educational program, and the services they need to live independently. Child Advocates are often the most consistent presence in the life of a child in a system where caseworkers, attorneys, and foster placements turn over frequently. Child Advocates attend every court hearing and provide judges with detailed, fact-based court reports that address the needs and circumstances of these children.
To ensure that each family’s situation is evaluated on a case-by-case basis the Volunteer Advocate stays on a case as long as necessary – typically until a child is reunited with parents, adopted, or living independently. Ultimately, GAL strives to have children discharged from the system and placed in safe, permanent homes as efficiently as possible.
No other organization exists to advocate in this way for youth who have experienced abuse and need a better solution.