I’ve always had a heart for adoption and foster care. Our family has two daughters that joined our family through adoption, but we haven’t had the opportunity to foster a child. My daughter, Kari, wanted us to take in a foster child, but it wasn’t the right time for us. So, when I told her about what Guardian Ad Litem’s do (advocate for children in foster care to the court), she got online and signed up for the next training class in Guilford County. I signed up shortly afterward, and we both took the GAL training together. It was one night a week for five weeks in downtown Greensboro. At 19, Kari became the youngest Guardian Ad Litem in Guilford County!
After the training and being sworn in by the judge, the supervisor gave me a choice about the kind of case I was comfortable taking. I ended up taking a sibling group of two preschoolers. I enjoyed visiting with them in their foster home and daycare. Our favorite things to do were to read and draw together.
The Task of a GAL
GALs are tasked with recommending what is in the best interest of the foster children, so I had to gather information. I talked with the teachers at their preschool and the foster mom about how they were doing. I also communicated with the staff at doctors’ offices to get updates and copies of their visits and made sure none of the children’s needs were falling between the cracks of the team of foster parents, social workers, school, doctors, and the GAL program. I also talked with the birth father to get caught up with how his social services plan was going, and I tried to get information about the birth mom that was available. When I went to the parent meetings at the Social Services office, in which the social workers, attorneys, GAL representatives, the birth parents, and the foster parents all attend, I got a clearer picture of the birth parents’ progress.
After I gathered my information, I put it all together in a court report about two weeks before the scheduled court date. It felt like writing a term paper, but I knew it was very important to the process of determining what was best for these children! The report then was turned in to my GAL supervisor for corrections, additions, and omissions.
Court days are the most difficult part for me. It’s rare for a case to be heard on the scheduled date. The cases are “continued” a lot of the time for different reasons. Guardian Ad Litems need to be prepared to tell the judge how the children are doing and make any recommendations, but being around the court system can seem very slow-moving at times.
Maybe God Is Calling You to Get Involved
Overall, it has been a rewarding ministry, and I have felt I’ve made a difference in some lives. I hope there are more people at Mercy Hill—people with flexible schedules and a heart to be a voice to children going through a lot of transition and uncertainty in their lives—who will be interested in becoming Guardian Ad Litems!
Mercy Hill is hosting a GAL interest and information session this coming Sunday, September 22nd from 2-3:30 at the Edgefield Campus. Please visit the Mercy Hill Adoption and Foster Care Facebook page to RSVP or contact Jonathan Spangler at email@example.com if you have questions. If you cannot attend the meeting this Sunday, go to www.nomorespectators.com and search for the Guilford and Forsyth County GAL offices in the Serve in the Community section.
-Julie Blount (MH Member)