Guardian ad Litems
What is a Guardian ad Litem?
A Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is a volunteer appointed by the court to protect the rights and advocate the best interests of a child involved in a court proceeding. The Volunteer Guardian ad Litem makes independent recommendations to the court by focusing on the needs of each child. The Guardian ad Litem advocates for the best interests of the child they represent. A Volunteer Guardian ad Litem is an individual who is appointed by the court to advocate for children who come into the court system primarily as a result of alleged abuse or neglect.
Volunteer Guardian ad Litems are:
- Individuals who respect a child’s inherent right to grow up with dignity in a safe environment that meets that child’s best interests.
- Individuals who ensure the child’s best interests are represented in the court at every stage of the case.
What is the role of the Guardian ad Litem?
- Investigation: Carries out an objective, systematic examination of the situation, including relevant history, environment, relationships, and needs of the child. The GAL interviews family, friends, neighbors and members of the child's school.
- Facilitation: Identifies resources and services for the child and facilitates a collaborative relationship between all parties involved in the case, helping to create a situation in which the child's needs are met.
- Advocacy: Conveys the best interests of the child to the court and relevant agencies.
- Monitoring: Keeps track of whether the orders of the court, as well as the plans of the Department of Children and Families, are carried out.
What are Volunteer Guardian ad Litem responsibilities?
- Visits the child and keeps the child informed about the court proceedings.
- Gathers and assesses independent information on a consistent basis about the child in order to recommend a resolution that is in the child’s best interest.
- Reviews records.
- Interviews appropriate parties involved in the case, including the child.
- Determines whether a permanent plan has been created for the child in accordance with federal and state laws and whether appropriate services are being provided to the child and family.
- Submits a signed written report with recommendations to the court on what placement, visitation plan, services, and permanent plan are in the best interest of the child.
- Attends and participates in court hearings and other related meetings to advocate for a permanent plan, which serves the child's best interest.
- Maintains complete records about the case, including appointments scheduled, interviews held, and information gathered about the child and the child's life circumstances.
Contact the local office
The local Guardian ad Litem office serves the First Judicial Circuit including Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties.
The main office is located at 2257 North Palafox Street, Pensacola, FL 32501 and can be reached at 850.595.1157.
Each circuit program is supported by a local non-profit organization. The time and money contributed by these local organizations are essential to successfully meeting the needs of its children and volunteers. To donate contact: Child Guardians, Inc., P.O. Box 9526 Pensacola, FL 32513.
Sponsored by Lakeview Center and the State of Florida, Department of Children and Families