Spring 2010-#5. Vermont Guardians ad Litem in the 21st Century.

Authorby Hon. Katherine A. Hayes

Vermont Bar Journal


Spring 2010-#5.

Vermont Guardians ad Litem in the 21st Century

THE VERMONT BAR JOURNALVolume 36, No.1Spring 2010Vermont Guardians ad Litem in the 21st Centuryby Hon. Katherine A. HayesUnder Vermont law, guardians ad litem are appointed to represent the interests of all juveniles in juvenile court proceedings, whether they are alleged to have been abused, neglected, or without proper parental care, or charged with acts of delinquency.(fn1) In divorce or parentage cases, the family court has the authority to appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of a child whose parents are disputing parental rights or parent child contact, if the court believes that a guardian ad litem is necessary.(fn2) The Vermont courts rely entirely on volunteer guardians ad litem.

Over the years, the Vermont GAL program has been studied and criticized. Concerns have been raised about whether the program insures that GALs are adequately screened, trained, and given appropriate guidance and supervision. More than one report has been issued pointing out that some GALs, however good their intentions, have not been effective in protecting their wards' interests. Most notably, in 2000, an advisory committee on GALs, appointed by the Court Administrator and chaired by Judge Nancy Corsones, recommended that the GAL program essentially be scrapped, and that a professional GAL program similar to that in use in many other states, be adopted in its stead. This article is intended to bring the bar up to date on the very significant improvements and changes that have been made to the GAL program since 2000, to address the serious concerns raised by that committee and others.

Within two years of the issuance of the 2000 report, the Vermont GAL program had begun a formal relationship with the National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) group that continues to this day. This was one of the strongest recommendations of the report, and was immediately adopted. CASA, a nationally known and federally-funded group, provides technical assistance, training, and support for court-appointed volunteer advocates for abused and neglected children throughout the United States. CASA has been an invaluable source of guidance in setting appropriate written standards for recruitment, training, and supervision of the GALs in the...

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