RALEIGH — Chief Justice Mark Martin recently addressed a group of over 100 Guardian ad Litem staff from across the state at a meeting in Raleigh. The North Carolina Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program is celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2018. Celebratory events are being held in various regions throughout the state this year to mark this major milestone.
"Today and throughout this year, we celebrate you, our attorney advocates, and, obviously, our volunteers for all that you do, individually and collectively," said Chief Justice Martin. "Most of all, I celebrate the heart and the spirit with which you do it."
Established by statute in 1983, the North Carolina Guardian ad Litem Program has been serving abused and neglected children for 35 years.
Pursuant to North Carolina General Statute § 7B-601, when a petition alleging abuse or neglect of a juvenile is filed in district court, the judge appoints a volunteer Guardian ad Litem advocate and an attorney advocate to provide team representation to the child, who has full party status in trial and appellate proceedings. All Guardian ad Litem advocates are trained, supervised, and supported by program staff in each county of the state. The collaborative model of GAL attorney advocates, volunteers, and staff ensures that all North Carolina children who are alleged by the Division of Social Services to have been abused or neglected receive GAL legal advocacy services.
"We have one of the strongest court appointed special advocate programs in the country," said Cindy Bizzell, administrator of the North Carolina Guardian ad Litem program. "The work of our volunteer GALs helps the court make the best decision possible in the lives of vulnerable North Carolina children."
A Brief History of Guardian ad Litem
Guardian ad Litem is established in the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts by the General Assembly. (N.C.G.S. 7B-1200)
Guardian ad Litem completes the 1983 mandate to have a GAL Program in each judicial district. From the coast to the mountains, the program has staff and volunteers in all 39 judicial districts.
Guardian ad Litem staff create a manual designed to encourage best practices within the program.
Guardian ad Litem celebrates 20 years of advocating for abused and neglected children in the court system. At this time, the program has more than 3,800 GAL volunteers and attorneys serving more than 15,700 children.
For the first time, Guardian ad Litem reaches the milestone of having 5,000 volunteers.
Guardian ad Litem celebrates 30 years of advocacy.
Guardian ad Litem once again reaches the milestone of having over 5,000 volunteers.
Guardian ad Litem provides for the best interest for a record 18,083 children.
Guardian ad Litem celebrates 35 years of advocacy.
About N.C. Judicial Branch
The Judicial Branch is an equal and distinctively separate branch and core function of government. More than 6,000 Judicial Branch employees statewide administer justice in courthouses in North Carolina’s 100 counties. The Judicial Branch budget for FY 2016 – 2017 is $516.6M, 92 percent of which is used to pay salaries and the remaining 8 percent is used for operations. The Judicial Branch receives 2.29 percent only of the overall State budget. More than 47 percent of the Judicial Branch's appropriation is equivalent to revenues collected by the courts through imposed fines and fees that are deposited in the State General Fund.
About N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts
The N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts (NCAOC) is the administrative agency for the N.C. Judicial Branch, providing administrative services to help the North Carolina court system operate more efficiently and effectively, taking into account each courthouse’s diverse needs, caseloads, and available resources.
About N.C. Guardian ad Litem
North Carolina Guardian ad Litem equips and trains community volunteers to serve as independent court advocates to represent and promote the best interests of abused and neglected children and youths by advocating for their best interests. The Office of Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Services is a division of the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts. Pursuant to G.S. 7B-601, when a petition alleging abuse or neglect of a juvenile is filed in district court, the judge appoints a volunteer Guardian ad Litem advocate and an attorney advocate to provide team representation to the child, who has full party status in trial and appellate proceedings.
Could you be the voice for a child?
In 2017, more than 2,400 abused and neglected children and youth in North Carolina went to court without someone to advocate just for them. Volunteer to become a Guardian ad Litem Advocate and be the voice for a child. For more information, call 652-4632 or go online to www.nccourts.org/County/McDowell/GAL.