“We can’t pay you, but your reward is knowing you get to help a child,” Judge Johnson said at the ceremony.
The Pickens County Guardian ad Litem Program recruits volunteers who learn how to advocate for children taken from homes of abuse and neglect. The 30-hour training program focuses on the family court system, how to recognize abuse and neglect, and how to communicate with children and others involved in the case.
“Training is the best part,” said Tom Garrett, a former Clemson University professor who has been a volunteer guardian ad litem for more than three years. “What you learn in class is sufficient for what you need to know on your first case.”
All volunteers must be at least 21 and pass a background and Central Registry check before they can take a case. Each case takes a commitment of about 4 to 6 hours per month, but program organizers say volunteers are often the only source of stability for children who regularly move to different foster homes, transfer to new schools, change case workers and often lose contact with friends and extended family members.
“People are intimidated by volunteering because they feel like they need to change the world,” Garrett said. “You don’t. If everyone helps a little, a lot of people are helped. Even just one case makes a difference.”
The Pickens County Volunteer Guardian ad Litem program will be hosting information workshops at the Easley Library on Tuesday, October 19th at 10 a.m. and Wednesday, October 20th at 7 p.m. for anyone who is interested in volunteering.
For more information, contact Cindy Wolthuis at 878-0807 or go to www.pickens.scgal.org.