Guardian ad Litem volunteers are needed in Yadkin County to monitor the care and future of local abused and neglected children now involved in the foster care system.
“Last year there were 79 children in YCHSA custody because of neglect or abuse,” said GAL volunteer Rebecca McCarson. “This year there are already 36 children. Only 11 of these children have a GAL to speak for them. These children are the innocent, helpless ones. These children need positive adult advocates to speak for them. These children deserve a permanent, safe home.
“Family changes have recently reduced the number of our active volunteers,” explained Cathy Davidson at the Yadkinville GAL office in the courthouse. “A number of new cases have come in and we just don’t have enough volunteers to cover them all.”
Guardians ad Litem are not “guardians” in the traditional sense. They get to know the children, look into their situation and options, and report to the court the children’s desires and best interests. They speak with parents, foster caregivers, social workers, health-care providers, teachers and others to be able to advocate for the child’s welfare.
Most importantly, they visit the children monthly to make sure they remain happy, healthy and safe in foster care. The GAL reports help the judge make an informed decision about the child’s future.
“It is so very gratifying to know that I am helping to make a difference in a child’s life,”said McCarson. “I am trying to ensure they have a good life full of opportunities. I work to make sure they have a permanent, safe, and healthy home. I am the voice for these children when they may not otherwise be heard. I give my time and love into this effort, but what I receive back is tenfold.
“The beauty of this volunteer opportunity is that it is relatively easy to fit truly significant work into your personal schedule,” Davidson added, explaining that the average time commitment after training may be no more four to 10 hours a month after a case begins.
“These are children who have found themselves in a desperate situation through no fault of their own. Each one of them needs someone to listen to them and to be willing to speak and act on their behalf,” said GAL volunteer Sue Honeycutt.
Volunteer Cathy Shore said she first learned of the Guardian ad Litem program 20 years ago and promised herself that upon retirement she would volunteer.
“I’m not yet retired; I’m still a busy professional, but when my own children grew up and left home, I realized that I still felt that yearning to invest in the next generation,” Shore said. “I think that with age we all come to realize that the most important thing we will leave on this earth is our influence on others. Serving as a Guardian ad Litem volunteer is one of the most profound ways to impact young lives in crisis. It can be challenging and time-consuming work, but there is no doubt that it is important, rewarding, and enduring.”
Anyone with the slightest flexibility in their daily schedules can easily volunteer as a GAL advocate, Davidson added. Thirty hours of training is required. Classes are now forming for a training session April 22 through May 20. Application and interview are required. Call 336-679-3671 or 336-651-4468 for questions or visit www.volunteerforgal.org for an application.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter or Instagram @RippleReporterK.