Guardians ad litem serve as independent voices for abused and neglected children, and Lorain County needs more of them.
According to the county, 85 percent of the children who are appointed a GAL before the Lorain County Domestic Relations Court are younger than 12.
Many of the children they represent have been separated from parents who are suffering with the disease of alcohol or drug addiction. As the opioid epidemic continues to strain the court, health care, and social service systems, children displaced by the disease of addiction are increasingly living with a family member or grandparent, or are placed into foster care, if no relatives can take them.
The Domestic Relations Court appoints a GAL through Voices for Children, a nonprofit in Lorain County that recruits, trains, and supports volunteers to serve as guardians ad litem. Court-appointed attorneys and social workers typically have high-volume caseloads, making it difficult to give each child’s case the attention it calls for. The GAL works independently as the child’s voice in court, focusing solely on protecting the best interest of the child.
A $9,000 grant announced by the Community Foundation of Lorain County is aiding the work of Voices for Children, as part of its recent distribution of $860,646 to Lorain County nonprofits.
The grant supports volunteer training and recruitment. Since 2002, the Community Foundation has awarded more than $110,000 to Voices for Children.
Volunteer recruitment is critical, and Voices for Children needs volunteers to ensure that each child has an advocate. According to its 2017 annual report, 135 Voices for Children volunteers worked more than 7,500 hours and advocated for 413 children in court, compared to 150 volunteers serving 415 children in 2016.
Those interested in becoming a volunteer can contact the main office on the second floor of the Lorain County Justice Center, 225 Court St., Elyria, at 440-329-5158, or visit www.vfclc.org.