Speaking for the Children

I am a newly appointed Guardian ad Litem ( Court appointed child advocate, CASA) in the state of North Carolina.  My job (I am a volunteer) is to be a spokesperson for abused, neglected, and/or dependent children. I spent thirty hours in training and then went to court to be sworn in by a local judge.

The GAL volunteer’s responsibilities include digging for details and collaborating with other participants in the case, recommending what’s best for a child by writing court reports, empowering the child’s voice, staying vigilant by constantly monitoring the case, and keeping all information confidential.

I have just been assigned my first case, which involves three children, and will begin my investigation on Monday.  I feel a great responsibility and pray for wisdom as I make recommendations to the court for the disposition of these children.  I ask for ears to hear and insight to feel the heart of the child.

I do not want to fail a single child because I believe every child deserves the right to be heard, and to have a champion.  I believe children’s voices need to be heard and their needs met.

After completing my training I began to read state and national statistics on child welfare cases. I knew abuse and neglect existed but had no idea to what extent.  I was horrified to learn the number of children who live in poverty and who have no meal from the time they leave school on Friday until they go back on Monday. Forget what happens to them during summer vacation.

I cried as I read the statistics on domestic violence and learned the price exacted from the children who are caught in the middle. The mental, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse done to children seems to be unbounded.

The numbers are climbing on families who find themselves meeting the criteria of being in poverty. It seems the majority of families in poverty are one parent home and that parent is usually a woman. Lack of money, education, stress and frustration increase and the inability of an adult to cope gets taken out on the child.

Because all children matter, I pray I will do my job well and that I will effectively advocate in the best interest of the children.

The Advocate

This is not about
rescue, so as to feel good
when the child lights up with a smile.
This is not about
the comfort of compassion.
This is hard work,
struggling with ripped families
and children in clouds of pain,
anger dancing round their hearts
in the turmoil of a world
made crazy. This is caring,
yes, but also what is just,
what should be demanded.
It takes love
and a certain measure of courage.
And in the simple act
of person helping person,
it becomes extraordinary.

– Mercedes Lawry

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