Judiciary seeks to partner with nonprofit organizations to recruit, train, and support volunteer Guardians ad Litem
State Court Administrator Patricia Gabel announced today that the Vermont Judiciary has issued a request for proposals (RFP) to find committed, connected, and stable community-based nonprofit partners interested in administering a local Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program in one or more counties in Vermont. The Judiciary intends to build on the existing expertise and community connections of selected organizations to enhance the Judiciary’s capacity to recruit, train, and support volunteer GALs in each county so that GALs are better prepared to assist the children they serve.
Volunteer Guardians ad Litem advocate for children involved in court cases. Judges appoint a GAL in all child abuse and child neglect cases and occasionally in divorce or custody cases or cases when a child must testify. The GAL makes recommendations to the court and advocates for the child’s best interests in and out of court until the case is over. Across Vermont, there are 300 volunteers working with approximately 2,000 children and youth. More volunteer GALs are needed.
“The volunteer GALs have done an amazing job advocating for children and youth in their community and in meeting the demand for their services during the dramatic increase in child protection cases,” said Ms. Gabel. “The partnerships that result from this request for proposals will allow us to provide the recruitment, training, and support for volunteer GALs to an extent not possible under our current system. Increasing the number of volunteers as well as the training and support they receive will allow them to be even more effective advocates for Vermont’s children.”
In Vermont, GALs are trained, court-appointed community volunteers who advocate for the best interests of a child in every child protection (CHINS) case. GALs do not need any prior specialized education or experience, and volunteers come from all educational and professional backgrounds. Each volunteer receives comprehensive training and participates in a mentoring process before assignment to a case. Ongoing training and support ensure that volunteer GALs understand the issues and processes affecting the children and youth they serve so that they can advocate more effectively for those children in and out of court.
Interested nonprofits should visit www.vermontjudiciary.org/galrfp for more information and for guidance on how to download the RFP. Ideal proposals will come from organizations with experience administering volunteer-based programs in collaboration with a governmental partner to serve children or families in need.
For more information about the GAL Program, including how to become a volunteer GAL, please visit www.vermontjudiciary.org/GAL.