Opinion: County in critical need of more guardians
Addison County is a wonderful place to live and raise children. However, some families do not always have the resources and support they need, and children end up in the state’s custody for a variety of reasons.
Some have been abused, neglected, and/or abandoned by their parents or other caretakers; others are the subjects of adversarial custody disputes; some are involved in the court system due to unmanageable or delinquent behaviors. These children need someone to speak on behalf of their best interests as they go through the legal proceedings.
Did you know that there is a state mandate that every child in the state’s custody (due to the above listed reasons) is to have an impartial advocate appointed — a “Guardian ad Litem?” That’s right, this mandate requires volunteers. Lots of them.
Currently, there are over 100 cases in Addison County. The Vermont Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program provides these caring adults to ensure that every child in the system has a well-trained, impartial, supervised and supported volunteer advocate to see them through what is often a very difficult and confusing time.
Volunteers do not need a professional degree or background to become a court advocate for a child, but they must pass a background check, attend training and have a willingness to learn and grow as an advocate. There is plenty of support through a wonderful group of citizen volunteers and supportive court staff.
Come find out more about the program. There is an Open House on Tuesday, Sept. 15, at noon at the Addison County Courthouse, 7 Mahady Court, Middlebury, where you can talk to program volunteers and staff, learn more about the program and how to apply. Please plan on attending for refreshments and learn how to make a difference.
GAL coordinator for Bennington, Rutland and Addison counties
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