“We do what we do because we believe that some things are important enough for us to take a stand!”(Author Unknown)
That statement exemplifies the calling of the volunteers who act as the voices for the children within the court system. The Forsyth County Guardian ad Litem Program becomes involved whenever children are brought into the court system. Their team of volunteers, court advocates, and designated attorney partner to help children when, through no fault of their own, their world turns upside down due to family/domestic violence, neglect, substance abuse, or mental-health issues. By definition, a guardian ad litem is “a guardian appointed to protect the interests of a minor or incompetent in a particular matter.” The guardian at litem represents the interests of a child during court proceedings. He or she stands for the children.
The importance of these dedicated volunteers reaches far beyond just a day in court in many cases. “These are not only advocates for the children; many of these volunteers have long-term impact and influence on the children’s’ lives,” shared Sherita Cain, Guardian ad Litem District Administrator. “They represent the most consistent adult presence in the lives of many of these children. They are the anchors that a child can rely on to be there for them when others who support them come and go.”
Currently, the Forsyth County Guardian ad Litem Program (GAL) has approximately 239 active cases representing children from birth through 18 years of age. Each county in North Carolina has its own agency with a team of trained Guardian ad Litem volunteers. Currently, Forsyth County has 99 active volunteers with training more an on-going initiative.
The Guardian ad Litem Program has been in place for 35+ years. In addition to the administrative staff and team of volunteers, Fredrick Evans serves as the GAL attorney advocate. The GAL volunteer serves solely “in the best interest of the child.” He or she attends court in place of the child.
Ready to volunteer? Volunteering training is offered three times a year. Volunteers come from all walks of life; no special background is needed, just a non-judgmental, non-biased, and open-minded attitude coupled with a desire to help children in varied situations. Volunteers attend an orientation session. Orientation for the next Guardian ad Litem training is Thursday, January 3rd, 2019, at 5:30 p.m. Class sessions will begin on Saturday, January 12th, 2019, at 9:00 am.
For more information on the Guardian ad Litem Program or the training, contact Sherita Cain or Melissa Bell at 336-779-6321.
Training classes are typically held on Saturdays to avoid work conflicts. Volunteers complete an application, go through a background check and screening process, attend 15 hours of in-class training, and do15 hours of on-line training. Once complete, the new Guardian ad Litem volunteers are then sworn in by a judge.
For additional information or to find out more about volunteering, contact the Forsyth County Guardian ad Litem Program at 336.779.6650, via fax 336.779.6341, or visit their website (VolunteerforGAL.org). Their office is located in the Forsyth County Hall of Justice (200 N. Main Street, third floor (Room 306). Volunteers are needed; the children are waiting.