One of the most rewarding and upsetting portions of our job is when we are hired or appointed as a child’s Guardian Ad Litem (GAL). I know it sounds fancy, and there’s some Latin thrown in there to confuse people. To make it easy to understand and a little less lawyerly, a GAL is there to protect the child’s best interests. This could mean an array of things and it is as vague as it needs to be to allow the GAL to do their job.
I like to think of myself as the child’s fairy god mother in these cases, but the difference is that this isn’t a fairytale. I’m not here to make their life enchanted or magical, but to simply ensure that the child is living a safe, normal, and stable life. To some of these children, that’s as good as any fairytale. Imagine if Cinderella had gone from scrubbing the floors, eating grub, and associating with vermin (yes, I’m comparing the mice & birds to vermin. Come on, be honest! They are vermin) to living in a cottage with a decent meal every day provided for her. She would have been thrilled. She didn’t necessarily need the castle and the riches. She needed what was necessary, but luckily she got a little more in the end.
During my job, I have to talk to the parents, the children, and do home visits to check out the children’s living situation. The easiest part of this is speaking with the children. Children and I get along very well. I’m not sure if it’s my affection for Disney movies, or the fact that I prefer pink sparkly things to some of the depressing things in life, but speaking with children is easy. They’re usually honest, and straightforward. If they do lie, they haven’t gotten good enough at it to trick me just yet. The home evaluations are an entirely different story. Sometimes, the parents usually panic trying to figure out how to impress me. Sometimes, they don’t even care. Here are a few tips on how to impress your GAL during your home eval:
- Clean, or at the very least straighten your home. If there are tripping hazards, or if I can’t see the floor, I’m not going to consider this a safe place for a child to live. How can I know what is lurking under the trash or clothing on the floor? Hey, I get it. I’m messy, but when I have company coming over, I clean to impress. If you are at risk of losing your children, would picking up a dust buster be too much to ask?
- Raid, roach motels, or a hair spray torch work wonders for bug control. Roaches carry diseases. I can’t recommend that a child return home if they are crawling around with roaches. Also, I’m allergic to roaches. If I worry about my health coming in your home, I can’t help but worry about a defenseless child’s health.
- Buy Food. Your refrigerator should be full of food, and the more nutritious the better. If your fridge is empty, but you have cigarettes and liquor, you need to reevaluate your priorities.
- Don’t smoke in the home during the home eval. I’m also allergic to smoke. Once again, if I’m too worried about my own health to finish the home evaluation, how can I believe that this environment is safe for developing lungs? Also, as with above, if you can’t afford to buy food for the child, or to go to your court ordered classes, but you can purchase cigarettes, revaluate those priorities.
- Do not hang around bad influences (even if they’re neighbors). I don’t care how old you are, or how young you are. If you have a child, you are an adult. It’s time to make good decisions, and that’s begins with your company. The last thing any GAL wants to see is your drug dealer at your home during a home evaluation.