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Norwalk, CT 06851

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What is a GAL?
GAL stands for Guardian ad litem. In juvenile protection proceedings, A GAL is appointed by the court to be its “eyes and ears;” to advocate for and report to the court on how best to meet the needs of the child and serve his or her best interests.

Isn’t it the job of a child’s attorney to represent the child?
Yes it is. But because children do not always have the ability to make an adequately considered decision, the child’s attorney has a dual role: to advocate for what the child wants, as well as for what is in his/her best interests. Sometimes these two roles are consistent, but sometimes this creates a conflict for the child’s attorney – for example, when a child wants to return home to parents who are unable or unwilling to properly care for him or her. The attorney’s primary role is to advocate for the child’s stated position. Therefore, in cases of a conflict, the court will appoint a separate GAL to advocate for what is in the child’s best interest.

Do I have to be a lawyer?
No you don’t. Under Connecticut law, a GAL need not be an attorney.  The only requirement is that the GAL “be knowledgeable about the needs and protection of children.”  This is a job that any caring adult with persistence, empathy and commitment can do. Child Advocates of Connecticut will provide you with the training and support you need to be an effective GAL.

Is this the same GAL as in divorce cases?
Not really. There is a GAL for some children in custody disputes in divorces, but that kind of GAL has a much different job to do. Our work is in juvenile protection court, not family court, and serves children who have been abused or neglected by their parents.

What are the GAL’s responsibilities?
The GAL assists the court by obtaining information essential to the child’s well-being, including physical safety, emotional and psychological health and educational needs.  The GAL also meets with the child, often developing a close personal bond and becoming a source of support and continuity.  GALs work alongside judges, attorneys, social workers, mental health providers and educators to identify the child’s needs, becoming a critical link to services and integrating those services with permanency decision-making.

Do I need to have any special expertise?
No. The role of the GAL is NOT to be the attorney, social worker, therapist, teacher or doctor.

Do I need training?
Yes. Child Advocates of Connecticut has developed a comprehensive training program, consistent with national standards, which will give you the tools you need to be an effective child advocate, or GAL. Our Program Directors work closely with our volunteers, providing back-up support, information and guidance for all aspects of the work. Volunteers also have the opportunity to continue to learn and improve their advocacy skills at in-service trainings.

How long will my case last?
Every case is different, some lasting a matter of months, others lasting a few years. Volunteers are asked to commit two years to our program, the average length of a case.

What is the time commitment?
Every case is different, and the time commitment also depends on the stage of the case at the time you are appointed.  Generally speaking, at the investigatory stage of the case you will likely spend on average 20 hours per month; at the monitoring stage, 10 hours per month.

Will I be handling my case on my own?
Volunteers are supported in all aspects of their work by our Program Directors, who will help plan the investigation, provide guidance on the workings of the child protection system, assist in report writing, attend meetings and court hearings, even standing in for volunteers as necessary.

Will I be safe?
Volunteers are never asked to do anything that is unsafe. They work in close collaboration with the other professionals working to support the child and his or her family including, attorneys, social workers and mental health professionals. Program Directors provide constant back-up and support.

Do I have to make home visits?
In most cases, yes. First-hand observation of the child’s living situation, as well as that of his or her family, is crucial to understanding all of the child’s circumstances. However, volunteers need never make a home visit alone if it feels unsafe or uncomfortable; the Child Advocates of Connecticut Program Director is available to accompany volunteers, as is the case worker, child’s attorney or parent’s attorney.

Do I have a choice as to the kind of case I take?
Absolutely. A volunteer is free to accept or reject any case that is offered. Some volunteers delineate in advance the time commitment they have available to spend on a case, whether or not they are willing to travel, whether they feel comfortable handling cases involving multiple siblings, etc. Program Directors make every effort to match the needs of a case to the needs and availability of the volunteer.

Can I be a child advocate if I work full-time?
Generally, yes, so long as your full-time position has some flexibility. The court hears cases only between the hours of 9 and 5, and GALs are expected to be able to attend. The GAL’s other responsibilities, including the investigation and court reporting, can usually be accomplished after regular business hours, on weekends, and by telephone and email.

Can I be a child advocate if I travel extensively or spend part of the year in another state?
Yes you can, because our Program Directors make every effort to match the needs of a case to the needs and availability of volunteers. In addition, the Program Director will attend important meetings and court appearances in the place of a volunteer if circumstances so require.

If I am unable to be a GAL, can I help Child Advocates of CT in another way?
Please do! Child Advocates of CT is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation that receives no funding from federal, state or local government. We welcome donations large and small to support our mission of advocating for children. If you are training for a run/walk-a-thon, have a basement full of tag sale material, or have any other creative ideas for your own mini-fundraiser, please consider our organization as a recipient through web sites like www/ We also welcome volunteers interested in helping us in the areas of marketing, communications, development, state/local advocacy and the like. If you have a skill or special expertise that you would like to put to use in support of our mission, please contact us.