Sixty-six children. Why is this number important? In Surry and Stokes Counties there are now 66 children who not only have been removed from their homes because of unsafe environments, but also do not have a person to help advocate for them in court before a judge.
When there is a report of neglect and abuse of children, the Department of Social Services investigates. The Department determines if the children are not safe and need to be removed from the home and placed with relatives, friends, or in foster care. This is when the Guardian ad Litem program comes into play; this volunteer program works with children brought into the court system by the Department of Social Services. These children need to have a voice, an advocate, in court.
The volunteer Guardians ad Litem are appointed by a judge to advocate for the needs of the children in care. These volunteers investigate the academic, physical, and psychological needs of the children, identify resources, communicate with the social workers, and report to the judge. They make recommendations for the best interest of the children. Usually this work takes about five to eight hours a month.
How to become a Guardian ad Litem? Fill out an online application, an applicant’s criminal history and references will be checked, and have an interview with the Guardian ad Litem staff. The Guardian ad Litem programs for Surry and Stokes counties will be having a training class starting Feb. 7 and running every Tuesday for the next five weeks. The classes will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. at the SCC Pilot Center in Pilot Mountain. The training is a combination of in-person and online training.
To start the process of becoming a Guardian ad Litem, go online to www.volunteerforgal.org, fill out the online application. The staff of Guardian ad Litem will contact applicants to continue the process to become a GAL advocate for children. Children deserve a voice and people in the community can speak for them.