We are the voice for children taken into State custody, under the Child Protection Act. We get to know them and their situation and then we advocate on their behalf, speaking up for what’s in their best interest in order for them to live in a safe and permanent home. We do investigations, home studies, write reports, and attend hearings. We compile information and determine the best course of action for a child’s ultimate health and happiness. Ours is a job of flexibility – we lay on the floor and color with kiddos one day and visit a neglected newborn in the NICU the next.
As of 2017, we represent over 600 children in six counties: Adams, Canyon, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, and Washington.
Answers to Some Frequently Asked Questions:
“What should I know about the program?”
The 3rd District Guardian ad Litem program is part of Idaho’s network of seven CASA Programs (Court Appointed Special Advocates). We launched November 1st, 2017. We select, train, and guide Volunteer Guardians to represent, in Idaho’s Courts, children who have been removed from their family homes due to concerns about abuse or neglect.
“What will be my role as a Guardian?”
A Guardian ad Litem, Guardian, or GAL, is a community Volunteer who has completed training and engages in casework, representing children who have been removed from all or part of their family due to concerns of abuse and/or neglect. We get to know the child and their situation, and then compile a report to advise a Judge on what we think is in the child’s best interest for their current and future health and happiness.
“What kinds of circumstances will I be going into?”
Our community sets standards of tolerance for how its citizens should live and interact with-in our society. When those standards are compromised, and children are involved, it becomes necessary to place them in a protected environment. This is when a Guardian is appointed by the Court. We handle all cases involving child abuse and neglect, including – but not limited to – physical abuse, sexual abuse, drug abuse, neglect, and homelessness.
“Will I have any training?”
Of course! 3rd District Guardian presents a CASA training program based on best practices. Training occurs weekly for four weeks. We also offer field training and shadowing with one of our “Power Guardians” or Advocate Coordinators, and help through the first case with meetings on report writing, attending hearings, going on visitations, and doing investigative work. The Volunteer has as much or as little help as they would like throughout the duration of their cases, and we require twelve hours of training per year through continuing education for all of our Volunteers as well as our Staff.
“How many children does your organization represent?’
In the 3rd District, we represent six different counties: Adams, Canyon, Gem, Payette, and Washington. Within those six counties, we have over 600 children in protective custody as of 2017.
“What requirements do I have, to become a Guardian?”
A Guardian, with a completed background check, needs to present a willingness to get involved in the deep recesses of a child’s life. To report and recommend changes that will help find the child a safe and permanent home. This work is emotional, and so the Guardian must be able to control their emotions during difficult circumstances and focus on the child and what’s in their best interest.
“What counties make up the 3rd District?”
Adams, Canyon, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, and Washington.
“Are more Guardian’s needed?”
YES! With the number of children in care far outweighing our current Volunteer capacity, more Guardians are sorely needed.The six counties we represent currently house the second largest number of children in protective custody in the state; and yet, the 3rd District Guardian ad Litem Program’s Volunteer capacity can only handle 28% of all cases that come in.
“How long will I be with a typical case?”
Most cases last between twelve and fifteen months, depending on the circumstances. We recommend that our Volunteers remain with their case throughout its duration. Of course, you are always welcome to take on another case after one is completed.
“What age will the child be that I’m serving?”
Currently, we have a need for Volunteers to advocate for children ages 0-18. Guardians are able to let their Advocate Coordinator know the age they are most comfortable working with and their preferences.
“How will I report to the Judge?”
Guardians report to the Judge in written form and reports, then they appear in Court where they are represented by an Attorney associated with the Guardian ad Litem program.
“How will I interact with the Department of Health and Welfare and the Court system?”
Often times, the Guardian words hand in hand with Social Workers and the Court. However, we perform an independent investigation and are free to express an objective recommendation. We do share information and request information frequently with the Department of Health and Welfare, but our reports are in our own words and are filed separately.
“Who can I speak to about the cases I cover?”
Because there are children involved, the confidentiality laws are strict concerning all cases. As a result, we try to make our Staff as involved and available as possible for our Volunteers to have a sounding board and to discuss cases with. All information about cases is confidential, open only to those who are engaged with cases, have signed confidentiality agreements, and have secured background checks.
“Do I have to have a background check?”
All Guardians in the 3rd District must complete a rigorous background check through the Idaho Supreme Court, Department of Health and Welfare, and Idaho State Police. This does not mean, however, if you have a violation on your record that you cannot be a Guardian. We encourage you to discuss any concerns with us and we will help you through the process.
“How often do I meet with the child I’m assigned to?”
A Guardian is required to visit the child they are assigned to a minimum of one time per month. The duration of the visit is left to the Guardian’s discretion. If you would like to visit the child more often, that is wholly encouraged.
“What if I cannot attend a Court hearing?”
What’s special about the 3rd District program is that all Guardian’s support each other. When a Guardian is unable to attend a Court hearing, a knowledgeable fellow Guardian will step forward and attend in their place.
“What reports do I need to write?”
Although the report writing seems to be daunting, it’s really not. Basically, reports are a summary of all the visits, interviews, and research the Guardian completes through the life of a case, as well as any concerns and suggestions. Fellow Guardians are on hand to help create and edit finished reports which are submitted to the Court prior to a hearing.
“How do I get information about the child?”
Oh, the PLACES you will go! As you get involved with the case, the way to gaining and verifying information will reveal itself. Every case is unique, and so information for every case will need to be obtained uniquely. Most revealing information will come through your interviews and visits with families and providers. We perform interviews at homes, schools, hospitals, Doctor’s offices, therapeutic agencies, the Department of Health and Welfare, and more.
“How long will I need to serve as a Guardian?”
We require our Volunteers to service through the duration of the case they are assigned. A typical case can last between 12-15 months. We encourage and welcome Volunteers to continue beyond that and take more cases.
“How many hours a month will I typically spend on a case?”
The time spent per case does depend on the type of case it is and what stage the case is at. The beginning of the case will be the most time consuming between hearings, visitations with all parties, and gathering information. You can expect to spend about ten hours per month during the first three months of the case. After that, the time required is typically less.
“How many cases will I have?”
After a volunteer is properly trained, you will be assigned one case, which your supervisor will help you through. If you would like an additional case after that, you are more than welcome. A Volunteer will never have more than two cases at a time unless otherwise approved by a supervisor.
“How do I get started?”
Please call us and set-up an appointment to meet with a Staff member. We’ll take it from there and show you the way to becoming a Guardian. 208-459-9969.