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Become a Volunteer
What is a Child Advocate?
A child advocate is a person appointed by the Juvenile Court to represent the best interests of a child who is involved in a court proceeding. The official title of this person is guardian ad litem. Child advocates are men and women from all walks of life who volunteer for this role out of concern for the needy children in our community.
Advocates have a significant impact on the important decisions the court will make about the child’s future.
Child advocates review written materials about the child’s situation. They visit the child and talk to family members, foster parents and caseworkers who have information about the child’s needs. Along with other professionals involved in the case, they attend court hearings and give the judge an opinion about the recommendations being made for the child and family. After the court makes a decision, the advocate follows-up the progress of the case to make sure the child and family are receiving needed services.
People who volunteer as child advocates take on a very important responsibility, but their duties are limited. They do not provide a home for the child and they have no control over the person or property of the child. The advocate is expected to think independently and objectively about each child’s case and work on behalf of that child’s best interests. Once the court’s involvement is over, the child advocate is dismissed.
Child advocates accept case assignments as their time and interest allow. Once the initial case review is complete, you can expect to spend about ten hours each month on each case you are assigned. You must be able to attend court hearings which are held during business hours in downtown Minneapolis.
Although some of the work can be done over the telephone, you must have daytime hours available to contact social workers, teachers, therapists and attorneys. Attending case meetings and visiting foster homes may be easier if you have the use of a care. You will be reimbursed for mileage/parking expenses or bus fare.
There is no special degree or educational requirement to be a child advocate volunteer. A concern for children and a willingness to speak up for a child’s best interests are the most important qualifications. You must be a responsible adult with good judgment and the common sense that comes with life experience. If you are patient and have the ability to understand children and families in stressful situations, you could make an excellent child advocate.
Please visit the National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) website for further information on what it means to be an advocate for children.
Guardian ad Litem Expectations
Personal qualities important for the Guardian ad Litem (GAL):
-Respect for diversity
Abilities necessary for being an effective GAL include:
-Good communication skills
-Manage conflict appropriately
-Handle difficult issues and situations
-Reach conclusions after considering all the facts
-Work professionally with individuals with significantly different values and life situations
VOLUNTEERS in the Guardian ad Litem Program agree to:
-Participate in a personal screening interview to mutually determine aptitude for this role
-Complete 40 hours of pre-service training
-Commit to a minimum of 18 months service following training including a six month probationary period
-Conduct themselves in a responsible, ethical and law abiding manner commensurate with the role as an officer of the court
-Accept a minimum of two (2) cases during the probationary period and no less than four (4) cases in 18 months
-Attend a minimum of eight hours of in-service training per year
-Assertively advocate for the best interests of the children they are appointed to represent
THE GUARDIAN AD LITEM PROGRAM agrees to:
-Conduct 40 hours of pre-service training
-Answer questions and provide case consultation
-Assign attorneys to provide legal advice representation as needed
-Reimburse mileage and parking expenses
-Develop relevant in-service training sessions and seminars
-Provide supervision, support and evaluation of work performed
-Work with the court and other elements of the child protective system to promote the effectiveness of the guardian ad litem