“The State of Florida Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) Program is a network of professional staff and community advocates, partnering to provide a strong voice in court and positive systemic change on behalf of Florida’s abused and neglected children” (guardianadlitem.org).
Circuit 12 GAL provide services to children in Manatee, Sarasota and Desoto Counties. The GAL’s primary focus is to be the voice for the child and that child’s best interest. Ensuring that GAL and Case Managers are collaborating to work towards positive case outcomes, will expedite permanency for the children we serve.
Ways to Partner:
When a GAL is newly assigned to the case, the Case Manager (CM) and GAL should conduct a joint home visit so rapport can be established and face to face discussions about observed interactions, strengths, needs, and possible risks can occur (after the visit). Doing this helps ensure that what is being observed is interpreted the same, or is discussed so both the CM and GAL know what each view is.
When the GAL wants to review a child’s case file with the CM, the GAL can contact the CM to workout a time when both are available. This will allow the GAL access to the CM to ask questions regarding information. This builds rapport and alleviates any misinterpretations.
Any time a ‘critical juncture’ happens in the case, the CM should follow up with the GAL to ensure they are aware of the critical juncture. GAL and CM should discuss the changes and what implications they have as far as risk and safety to the child.
Always be sure to keep the GAL “in the loop”. Notify the GAL if there is a change in placement and provide them with the current address and phone number for their records. This includes any runaway episodes.
Prior to finalizing court or other important documents such as case plan, judicial review, safety plan progress update and GAL court reports; the CM and GAL should share the information with one another and ask for insight and input. By doing this we ensure accuracy in the documents, fill in missing information and keep the communication open. This does not mean the CM or GAL must change the document after receiving the feedback. The GAL has a role of being an advocate for only the child. The CM after ensuring child safety has a role of being ‘Family Centered’. These roles do sometimes conflict and there will be times when we ‘agree to disagree’ about recommendations.
If any conflicts arise, a multidisciplinary staffing should be scheduled and held as soon as possible with all team members (the CM team, the GAL team, the parents, the child when appropriate, the family supports, the providers, Legal Staff, etc.) to discuss the conflicts and develop an action plan and action steps for each team member.
Remember our roles are professional roles and case activities should never be taken ‘personally’. Ultimately, the best interest of the child and expedited permanency is our focus. We can achieve this by building positive professional relationships.
*A GAL can be of great assistance to a CM. They can transport, request school and medical records, attend educational meetings and more. A strong partnership with the GAL on a case can save you time and energy!