Guardian ad Litem program needs more volunteer advocates
Published 4:43 pm Thursday, March 28, 2019
The Guardian ad Litem program (GAL) needs more volunteer advocates, especially in Stanly and Montgomery counties.
The program, which celebrated its 35th anniversary last summer, is part of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts and serves abused and neglected children throughout the state.
Stanly is part of District 20, which also covers Union and Montgomery counties.
A GAL advocate, according to the program’s website, is a trained community volunteer who is appointed, along with a GAL attorney, by a district court judge to investigate and determine the needs of abused and neglected children. The advocates get to know the children and will speak for them in court.
“They are truly the objective voice of the child,” said Jodi Livengood, who is the GAL program supervisor for the district.
She speaks about the program and the need for more advocates before groups at local churches, colleges and civic organizations.
There are 14 active advocates in Stanly and only a handful in Montgomery, Livengood said, compared to more than 40 in Union County. People who live in Stanly can still advocate for children in Union or Montgomery counties and vice versa. The district serves 202 children.
“April is Child Abuse Awareness Month across the nation and I would love for Stanly County to be featured as a participant to bring awareness,” Livengood said. “Our goal is to make sure every child has a voice.”
The advocates ensure that a child is safe, that the social worker and placement provider are meeting the child’s needs and they attend court advocating in the child’s best interests, Livengood said.
The online application process includes a criminal background check, a screening interview and 30 hours of intensive, standardized training.
District 20 hopes to have an advocate training in May to teach screened applicants who have already completed the online application and have been interviewed.
“The role of the advocate is life-changing for the child, but also life-changing for the advocate as well,” said Carolyn Green, the district administrator.
Anyone interested in becoming an advocate can visit https://www.volunteerforgal.org/menus/volunteer-as-a-gal.html for more information.
Contact Chris Miller at 704-982-2122.