Letter: You could be a voice for a child

Graphic by Lori Deaton

If you have several hours a month, you could have a big impact on the life of a child as a volunteer for the guardian ad litem program. A GAL advocate is a trained community volunteer who is appointed, along with a guardian ad litem attorney, by a District Court judge to investigate and determine the needs of abused and neglected children petitioned into the court system by the Department of Social Services.

Last month, there were 392 abused, neglected or dependent children in Buncombe County, and only 324 have been assigned a GAL. That means that 68 children who have experienced abuse or neglect have no volunteer to get to know them, establish a trusting relationship and advocate for them. Every child needs a voice, and you could be the voice for one of these children.

I’ve been serving as a GAL for three years and have found it to be a fulfilling and rewarding experience. I’ve seen some children successfully reunited with their families and others adopted into loving homes. With each case, I was pleased to have been able to be the child’s ally. Some of the things I do as a GAL are: meet with the child, talk with them by phone, observe visitation with their parents, check in with their school, talk to their foster family and work closely with their DSS social worker. I summarize my findings in a report to the court, usually every three months. My supervisor at the GAL office serves as a resource and answers any questions I have.

If you have a sincere interest in the welfare of children and can spare some time each month, you can help build a child’s future. We need more volunteers. You can find more information and start an application at [avl.mx/byd].

— Nancy B. Swigert
Buncombe County Guardian ad Litem
Biltmore Lake


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