The author, Leslie, was appointed as a Guardian ad Litem in November 2016. She currently advocates for three children in Guilford County. Click here for further information on Mercy Hill’s adoption and foster care ministry.
When I heard about the adoption and foster care ministry at Mercy Hill, my heart was filled. For the past year and half, I have served as a guardian ad litem where I have advocated for children who are currently in foster care in Guilford County. As someone with a huge heart for children in foster care, it is reassuring and exciting to see God stirring up a group of people who are interested in serving and loving the foster children in our home town.
As I have shared my experiences as a guardian ad litem with others, many people tell me they have never heard of the program. With over 550 children currently in DHHS custody in Guilford County and more than 250 needing an advocate, these children desperately need you to know what the guardian ad litem program does and for you to consider if God might be calling you to serve.
What is a Guardian ad Litem?
Legally, a guardian ad litem is a court-appointed volunteer who serves as a legal advocate for a child who is in the foster care system. In layman’s terms, this means that after you ace the interview with the GAL program, pass the background check, go through a thirty-hour training, and learn to write a court report, you will be sworn-in by a Judge and given a cool badge that gets you—and your cell phone—into the Courthouse. (No jeans, please.) You will be assigned a case and work with a GAL Supervisor who will help you learn how to advocate. As a GAL, you are required to see your child(ren) at least monthly and work to ensure that their voice is heard in court and that their needs are being met.
Why did I become a Guardian ad Litem?
I became a Guardian ad Litem because God said so. He called me into this form of Christian service in 2016. These children are the “orphans” of our community. These children have been deemed by the Court as abused, neglected—or both. They are in the legal custody of DHHS and DHHS will readily admit that they do not make great parents. These children are part of a very legitimate and serious mission field right here in our community.
Why Do I Love Being a GAL?
- It fulfills my capacity and desire to love on children that are not mine. I am a mini-van-driving, stay-at-home Christian mom of two daughters (now ages twelve and fifteen). I miss my professional business career, so I funnel all that energy into serving and volunteering in various capacities. Eight years ago, God very unexpectedly brought three homeless teens into my life. (God is great like that, isn’t He?) Long story short, God taught me that I could love—and go out on a seriously uncomfortable limb—for children who were not my own. I was stunned to realize how much help they needed. Just knowing these kids and interacting with them changed my focus and the dialogue at the family dinner table.
- Foster children need help. If you show up, they will not be overlooked. As a parent, I pour myself into my children. I see how much they need. I was originally considering becoming a foster parent, but my family was not in a place to bring another child into our home. Foster parenting is another role and a serious commitment. I admire it and still crave it on some level, but being a GAL allows me to have unity in my family and still impact children in foster care.
- I love it when God calls me out of my comfort zone. When we are uncomfortable, we grow. If you are not growing, you are boring or dying. Being a GAL will take you out of your “bubble” and into “the real world.” If you are scared about this part, immediately think about the child who has been taken from their parents and put into this world. Now, run toward them.
- There are firm guidelines for GALs. In training, you will learn that you cannot drive the child anywhere, you cannot have the child in your home, and you cannot give the child anything. In essence, you are liberated from being the child’s “savior.” In the early days, you may want to defy these guidelines; on other days, you will appreciate the protection. You quickly learn how to navigate the system and how to advocate alongside of your child.
- You get to go to Court and testify. Thankfully, I had never been to Court prior to becoming a GAL. I was a bit afraid of going to Court because it’s so…well, legal. As it turns out, going to Court is productive. It is there that you, literally, speak for the best interest of your child. Court may be sad or even funny. It is always productive.
How do I become a Guardian ad Litem?
It’s easier than you think! First, click here to apply. Then, schedule an interview. Finally, complete the 6-week training program (which is offered several times a year). Then you will be assigned a case and, if you’re like me, in a matter of months you will fall in love with your child, and they will impact you far more than you ever impact them.