CASA & GAL Program
Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program
"We all understand that making a difference in a child's life may not be taken in giant steps, but every small step does encourage a promising future for a child." You can make a difference in the life of an abused and neglected child. You can learn to advocate in court and in the community to increase the chances that children can have a safe and permanent family.
The GAL Program provides court-appointed special advocates for children who are victims, or alleged victims, of physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. Specially trained volunteers are appointed by a Superior Court Judge to represent the children's best interest during a dependency action brought against the parents.
Jefferson County's GAL Program, a division of Jefferson County Juvenile and Family Court, is part of National Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), the only volunteer organization that empowers everyday citizens as appointed members of the court. GAL volunteers come from all backgrounds and have a common goal of caring and advocating for some of the most vulnerable children in our community. The GAL Program will train and support you.
Role of the GAL
As a GAL volunteer, you will pursue an independent investigation of a child's situation, report your findings and recommendations to the court, monitor the progress of the case, and advocate for the best interest of the child. You'll learn how to interview the child, family members, service providers and other professionals to make sure all the facts are uncovered. You'll learn about courtroom procedures - what the court expects from you, how to clearly and effectively give testimony in court, and how to write reports to the court. As long as the child is involved in Dependency system, you'll be asked to monitor the entire process so that the child's best interests are served and to act as an independent voice to tell the court what you think should be done to ensure a safe home for the child. A GAL volunteer assumes no financial, legal or custodial responsibilities for the child. Their role is limited to cases in Dependency Court.
Definition of a Dependent Child
Dependent children are defined as those children who are under 18 years of age, who have no parent willing or able to care for them, or who are abandoned, abused, or neglected and are under the protective care of the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) Children's Administration. A GAL may be appointed for these children to represent what is in their best interests to the court during the dependency process.
Become a Volunteer GAL
No special background or education is required to become a GAL volunteer. Once accepted into the initial 35 hour training you will learn the basics of the GAL job including the needs of abused and neglected children, understanding families, and courtroom procedures. When you begin your first case you'll get on-the-job training with consistent support from the Program Coordinator.
A GAL volunteer assumes no financial, legal or custodial responsibilities for the child. Their role is limited to cases in Dependency Court.
- At least 21 years old
- Basic word processing/email skills and regular accessibility to a computer
- Commit at least 1 year to the program
- Criminal background check
- Fluent in spoken and written English
- Minimum education: high school diploma or GED
- Successful completion of the 35-hour free training program
Primary Responsibilities of a GAL
- Gather information and review documents and interview people relevant to the child's safety and welfare.
- Monitor case plans and court orders. Check to see that plans are being followed. This requires consistent communication with the individuals and agencies central to the child's well being.
- Speak up for the child and attend meetings regarding the child's health, education, mental health, etc.
- Appear in court, prepare written reports to update the judge on the child's progress and needs.
- Recommend services, speak out so the child and family receive the help they need.
- Be an active team member, stay connected with the child, family members, service providers and GAL coordinator.
- Keep learning, stay up to date with training opportunities that are provided.