GAL Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a Guardian ad Litem?
A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is a trained volunteer who is appointed by the court to advocate for the best interests of an abused or neglected child. In court, the GAL serves as an important voice for the child.
- How do I report child abuse?
Report child abuse through your county’s Department of Social Services (DSS).
- Who does the North Carolina Guardian ad Litem Program serve?
By North Carolina statute, the Guardian ad Litem Program can only be involved when a petition alleging child abuse, neglect, or dependency is filed by the Department of Social Services.
- Who can be a Guardian ad Litem?
Guardian ad Litem volunteers come from all walks of life and have a variety of professional, educational, and ethnic backgrounds. While no special education or experience is required, we are unable to accept all candidates as volunteers due to the rigor of the program and the sensitive nature of working with children. The process of becoming a Guardian ad Litem volunteer includes an application, a criminal background check, and a screening interview, as well as training.
- How will I know what to do as a Guardian ad Litem volunteer?
Guardian ad Litem offices across the state use a nationally recognized training program. Through this training, you will learn about the juvenile court system and your role in it so that you can be confident after you’re sworn in and take your first case. In addition, all Guardian ad Litem volunteers are supervised by an experienced staff member who can offer assistance at any time, plus attorney advocates attend all court sessions, and are available for legal counsel. Additionally, our staff conduct in-service trainings to keep your skills as a court volunteer up to date.
- I work full time. Can I still be a Guardian ad Litem volunteer?
Many of our volunteers have full-time jobs. Much of the work can be done on the weekend, in the evening, on the phone, and via email. You would need your employer’s permission to take off work when you have a court date (every three to six months, depending on the case).
- How many cases would I have?
Most volunteers have 1-2 cases, although the number of cases you take is up to you. Each Guardian ad Litem volunteer only accepts as many cases as they have time to manage.
- What is the time commitment for a Guardian ad Litem volunteer?
The initial training program takes 30 hours to complete, usually in the evenings or on the weekends. After you are appointed to a child’s case, you will spend time visiting with the child, interviewing people in the child’s life, reviewing records and reports, writing recommendations to the court regarding the child’s best interest, and attending court (if scheduled that month). The time commitment varies from case to case. Typically, you will spend four to eight hours per month doing GAL work.
- Could I be sued for my work in court?
The North Carolina General Statutes state: “Any volunteer participating in a judicial proceeding … shall not be civilly liable for acts or omissions committed in connection with the proceeding if he/she acted in good faith and was not guilty of gross negligence.” N.C.G.S. § 7B-1204
- How is the Guardian ad Litem volunteer different from a social worker?
The social worker represents the Department of Social Services (DSS), which has legal custody of the child or children involved. DSS is charged with ensuring the safety of the child(ren), providing services to the children and parents, and finding a permanent caregiver for the child, whether it is the parent(s), other relatives, foster care, adoption, or some other safe placement. As a Guardian ad Litem, you focus entirely on the child, advocating for special services, investigating community resources, and being the child’s voice in court.
- What does “ad litem” mean?
The term “guardian ad litem” comes from Latin, and means “guardian for the case.”
- More Questions?
If you have any questions, please contact us.