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Family Division

Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program


Guardian ad Litem Photos

Contact Information

Guardian ad Litem Coordinator

Email:  jud.vermontgal@vermont.gov

Application Information
GAL Application
Instructions on using PDF Forms
Frequently Asked Questions
expand  What is a Guardian ad Litem?
expand  How does a GAL determine a child’s best interests?

Each case is different, but in every case a GAL needs to know the people involved, obtain relevant information about the child, and be a zealous advocate for the child either through the child’s attorney or directly. While not every case requires the same work, GALs generally accomplish this by:

·         Meeting and communicating regularly with children to foster connection and understanding in order to advocate effectively for their best interests.

·         Meeting or otherwise communicating with parents, other family members or caregivers, and service providers such as DCF, school staff, clinicians, therapists, and physicians.

·         Advocating for necessary services and collaborative efforts between hearings and throughout the process.

·         Informing appropriate parties, including DCF and the child’s attorney, at any time in the CHINS process, of necessary information regarding the safety, well-being, and best interests of the child.

·         Ensuring that the court is informed of all relevant information to ensure consideration of the best interests of the child either through the child’s attorney or directly, in accordance with Rule 6 of the Vermont Rules of Family Proceedings.

 

   
 
expand  What kinds of court cases are GALs assigned to?
expand  What kind of training is provided?

Training can be broken down into two major areas: pre-service training to prepare a person to start working as a GAL and in-service training to explore issues and build skills.

The initial training is a 32 hours training over 3 days (about 16-20 hours of class time with independent work between classes) that is based around a curriculum developed by the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (National CASA or NCASA) and includes sections specifically developed to provide an overview of the Vermont-specific child protection system. These trainings are done in every county and include guest speakers from DCF, domestic violence advocates, judges, and attorneys. After training is complete there is an individualized mentoring with one or more experienced GALs to provide some “real world” experience. Once a new GAL and her/his mentors feel they are ready they can begin to take new cases.

In-service training takes several forms. There are full day trainings on specialized topics such as working with juveniles in delinquency cases. GALs are also invited to participate in trainings offered by DCF and other agencies, attend statewide workshops, and provided opportunities through the Court Improvement Program and other partners. Finally, there are shorter and less formal trainings such as webinars and monthly brown bag lunches with subject matter experts who present on relevant topics.

   
 
expand  Are GALs paid?
expand  Are GALs attorneys?

While a GAL can be an attorney by profession, when she or he is serving as a GAL he or she is not an attorney for that child or for the case. The child will be assigned an attorney who will be responsible for making all legal arguments throughout a case.

expand  How do I become a GAL?
expand  What kinds of people make good GALs?

There are no academic or professional credentials required, and we encourage anyone committed to helping Vermont’s most vulnerable children to apply. While our volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds they all are citizen volunteers are nonjudgmental, good communicators, organized, objective, flexible, willing to continue to learn, willing to be assertive without being confrontational, and who care immensely about children.

 
   
 
expand  What is the monthly time commitment?
expand  How long a commitment does the GAL Program expect from GALs?

Abuse and neglect cases can take up to two years. Since this is already a traumatic time for a child we ask that any volunteer make a two year commitment. This time commitment insures that the GAL will be a consistent supportive presence for the child throughout the case and will minimize the risk of further instability for the child. While we know that events may occur in a volunteer’s life that may make this impossible, please keep this in mind as you consider becoming a GAL.

   
 
expand  Can I be a GAL if I have a full-time job?
expand  What is the training schedule?

The training schedule is located here and will be frequently updated as more details become available. While you can attend any training that fits your schedule, they are offered in almost every county so there should be one in or within 1 county from where you live soon!

expand  What type of supervision and support will I receive?
expand  How do I get a Guardian ad Litem assigned for my child?

Only the court can assign a Guardian ad Litem and only in certain circumstances. While a GAL will be assigned in every abuse and neglect case (CHINS case), the court will assign a GAL in other cases only under very specific circumstances as proscribed by law. We cannot assign a GAL to a case even if we want to.

expand  I do not like the GAL and want a new one.
expand  Are all GALs part of your program?

No. While the term Guardian ad Litem is used in many types of cases, it does not necessarily mean that a GAL is from our program. We train and support GALs primarily for CHINS and delinquency cases, and if a GAL is assigned in any other type of case (such as a probate case or domestic proceeding) that GAL may or may not be from our program.

expand  Why aren’t GALs paid when they are paid in other states?
expand  How can I report a GAL for misconduct?

If you believe a GAL is not meeting his or her responsibilities please contact the central office at (802) 828-0625 or JUD.VermontGAL@vermont.gov. We will most likely forward the complaint to the appropriate coordinator, but may respond directly depending on the issue. Please keep in mind that we do not assign or remove GALs, except in extreme cases and that disagreeing with or disliking a GAL is not misconduct.