ANDERSON – If you’re looking for an easy volunteer job, you probably don’t want to try being a volunteer guardian ad litem.
If you are looking for a job helping children out of situations of abuse and neglect, Wendy Rogers may well have the job for you.
The Volunteer Guardian ad Litem Program based in Anderson provides individuals who represent the needs of children involved with the Department of Social Services in Family Court abuse and neglect case. It is a division of the Governor’s Office.
Rogers works in and helps promote the Anderson GAL program.
In short, a guardian ad Litem follows the condition and circumstances of children in the DSS system and reports that information to the court with recommendations.
The position does not require legal training but is really about getting to the know the child, his or her situation and help provide for getting the child to a safe place in their lives, Rogers said
“I like to say, ‘I am for the child. I am a voice for the child.’” Rogers said.
Rogers shares the passion with like individuals across the state, like Cherie Williams in Pickens
Williams has been involved in the program since 2000. She started as a volunteer and became the director of the program about 10 years ago. She continues carrying a case load of children’s needs.
“It is incredibly rewarding. I can’t imagine not being able to do this,” she said.
The children involved most frequently find themselves with a family member or foster care because of abuse or neglect by a parent.
Substance abuse on the part of the parent is a common cause for the court action in which the Guardian becomes involved. Domestic abuse, poverty and mental illness are other major situations that the Guardian deals with.
“Most children want to go back to their parents. It is our job to ensure they get to a safe place,” Williams said.
That means over the course of the parent obtaining treatment or otherwise coming to a resolution for the alleged abuse and neglect, the guardian meets with the child at least monthly.
Most guardian have at least two cases they are working on at any given time. They put in four to six hours a month, according to state averages, Williams said. “We know that they regularly under report the time amount of time they are working.”
Becoming a guardian requires 30 hours of training, generally three-hour session twice per week for five weeks.
The next session starts in Anderson January 6.
The need is significant. Williams said she would like to have 20 volunteers.
Using a preferred ratio of 1.4 cases on average per guardian, the Anderson office needs to add 30 to 35 volunteers to its cadre of 70 plus.
The Anderson office saw 163 new case in fiscal 2013. That translates into 281 new children in the system in need.
Consistency is important for the success of the children, Williams said. “Some of them come from situations that are so broken, they are glad to see us because they know we are going to be there just to hear them. We can have a profound influence on the lives of these children just by showing up. Just by taking the time to talk to them and hearing about what went on in school.”
For more information, contact the Anderson Guardian ad Litem office 864-225-2348.