The Guardian ad Litem program is in need of volunteers who love children and want to advocate for their best interest in court.
Guardian ad Litem is a volunteer-based program that trains volunteers to visit children, learn their needs and wishes, and advocate for the children who are in the custody of Department of Social Services.
Statewide, the program has 5,371 volunteers who advocate for more than 18,000 children in the course of a year to be sure that a judge understands what the child wants and needs in neglect and abuse cases, according to Kate Appler, district administrator for the program.
“Our need is constant,” said Appler. “These cases can take a year or more to finish, and things happen in people’s lives over the course of a year. Sometimes, it’s good things, like a new grandbaby, or sometimes, it’s bad things, like health problems. Overall, for every new volunteer we get, we lose one. We are constantly trying to find new people. We have 33 children without a volunteer now.
“You can be the person who listens to a child, talks with others who know this child and his or her needs in education, physical health, emotional health and report to the judge what you have learned. You can gain the trust of a child who has little trust in those who have taken care of him or her due to problems of substance abuse, domestic violence, or poor mental health. You can help a child be successful in school, be healthier, get the therapy they need to become successful adults. You can be part of the solution.”
Guardian ad Litem is a national program, but across the country it looks different in other states, said Appler. In 1983, North Carolina decided first to use attorneys. But there were not nearly enough, and over time, the need has grown. Especially now because of the opioid epidemic.
“Every case we have now involves opioids,” said Appler.
“Volunteers actually accomplish a lot more than paid staff,” said Appler. “There is not enough money for staff to do what these dedicated volunteers do. They talk to teachers. They talk to social workers. They talk to therapists. Often, parents don’t know how to ask the questions. We ask the questions. Taxpayers save $10 million a year using volunteers instead of paid staff. I like the volunteer model. They see the need, and it’s not just a job to them.”
“Become a Guardian ad Litem volunteer and be the voice for a child,” urged Appler. “Why not step up and help a child? This is your chance to be a child’s superhero.”
A new training class starts Sept. 18 at the Pilot Center, 612 East Main St., Pilot Mountain. The time is from 4-7 p.m. on six Tuesdays ending on Oct. 23. The training is a total of 30 hours, half in class and half online. At the end of the training, volunteers are sworn in by a district court judge in Dobson.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.