April is Guardian ad Litem Child Advocate Month in North Carolina and National Child Abuse Prevention Month. During this month, the N.C. Judicial Branch and Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program would like to recognize the more than 5,000 GAL volunteers who help improve the lives of North Carolina children.
"We thank the men and women who devote their time and hearts to the children who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in court as a result of abuse and neglect," said Chief Justice Mark Martin. "We recognize their service not only this month, but year after year."
North Carolina Guardian ad Litem Child Advocate Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together to advocate and provide support for children while preventing child abuse and neglect. During the month of April, communities come together to promote prevention of abuse and neglect across the country and to encourage the social and emotional well-being of children and families.
"Our GAL volunteers have been changing lives by providing children a voice in court for 35 years," said Cindy Bizzell, Administrator of the Guardian ad Litem Program. "Our volunteers generally work behind the scenes, so we want to take this time to publicly recognize their role in advocating for abused and neglected children."
Last year, GAL volunteers were appointed with attorney advocates to represent more than 18,000 children in 69,961 child abuse and neglect hearings. A child with a GAL volunteer is more likely to find a safe, permanent home, is half as likely to re-enter the foster care system and is more likely to succeed in school.
This year, GAL is hosting events throughout the state to recognize and celebrate the volunteers who advocate and provide support for our children every day. Local GAL programs plan and host the events where judges, court partners and community stakeholders come together to thank GAL volunteers for their work and raise public awareness around child abuse.
About N.C. Guardian ad Litem
The North Carolina Guardian ad Litem equips and trains community volunteers to serve as independent court advocates to represent and promote the best interests of abused and neglected children and youths by advocating for their best interests. The Office of Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Services is a division of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts. Pursuant to G.S. 7B-601, when a petition alleging abuse or neglect of a juvenile is filed in district court, the judge appoints a volunteer Guardian ad Litem advocate and an attorney advocate to provide team representation to the child, who has full party status in trial and appellate proceedings.
Could you be the voice for a child?
In 2017, more than 2,400 abused and neglected children and youth in North Carolina went to court without someone to advocate just for them. Volunteer to become a Guardian ad Litem Advocate and be the voice for a child.