I am posting a comparison two recent surveys conducted on the GAL program in two different states – Minnesota and Maine — because I believe that it is helpful to study the efforts different states have made to improve the quality of Guardian ad Litem (GAL) services, and to hear the public response (if available). The importance of surveys is that they are anonymous and give parents a way to raise their concerns without recrimination.
The following is provided for informational purposes only and is NOT meant to evaluate or criticize the GAL program in either state.
If you have found other states offering surveys, please post the link in the comment section and I will include it for discussion. Thank you!
The Minnesota State Guardian ad Litem Board has issued a survey to allow the public to give feedback on the program’s complaint process, used to file grievances against GALs (**survey closed 2/24/2017**). MN State GAL Board
The State of Maine recently issued a Vendor Survey so that the parents and their attorneys can offer feedback about their experiences with Guardian ad Litem services (**survery closed 2/15/2017). The survey is offered as part of a LD 872 An Act To Improve the Quality of Guardian ad Litem Services for the Children and Families of Maine – meaning the survey is just one part of the state’s efforts to address the performance, and quality of GAL services. State of Maine Guardians ad Litem Services Survey
Public Notice of the Survey:
Minnesota: Survey seems to be hidden, it is not publicly advertised. Survey is placed in an obscure location on the State GAL Board webpage and is difficult to find. Survey does not show up in online search results.
Maine: The survey is widely publicized in a number of places, including online. Survey shows up in online search results.
A good sign the survey has reached public attention is when people are blogging about the survey, and related subjects, or posting on social media. This has also happened with the Maine GAL survey.
Minnesota: Survey is comprised of 6 questions that deal exclusively with the complaint process or complaint appeals process. The survey questions are simple, and easy to read. There are two surveys available – survey one is for BOTH CPS and family court issues, and to be filled out by parents. Survey two has not been released at the time of this article, and I believe it is to be directed towards GALs (? Please comment if you have updated info!).
The language is confusing because the two terms are used interchangeably. It is hard to understand if the survey deals with the complaint process overall, or just the appeals process.
The introduction to the survey is confusing:”The GAL Board implemented a Complaint Investigation Appeal Panel process in 2015 to allow an additional layer of complaint review, if the complainant or GAL is unsatisfied with the resolution of the standard complaint process. In an effort to evaluate the effectiveness of the complaint process, your input is requested.”
It would be hard to answer the survey if you did not understand what is being asked. Some questions I had – What is the Complaint Investigation Appeals Panel? Who sits on the Appeals Panel, and how are they chosen? The GAL can also appeal a complaint made against them? What is the rights and/or options of a parent if the GAL appealed? Were there any other changes to the Complaint Process made in 2015? How can the Board determine how effective the revised Complaint Process is if they have not gathered information about the complaint procedure prior to 2015… and if the Board has gathered information, where is it?
The language of the Minnesota survey gives the impression that people who did not participate in the Appeals Panel would not be eligible for this survey. If that is the case, information regarding the Complaint Process overall would not be gathered; which makes absolutely no sense because the Complaint Process and the Appeals Panel are all part of the same procedure. To understand how the Appeals Panel is working, you would also need to understand and study the Complaint Process where the complaint originated, and what happened to send the complaint to Appeals.
Katherine Johnson, a reporter with KSTP News, recently reported on the Complaint Process that:” In a 15-month period that ended in November, only four complaints made it all the way up to the appeals panel out of 10,265 new cases where a guardian ad litem was assigned. That’s not even one percent.” Guardian ad Litem Board Works to Improve Complaint Process
SO if the Guardian ad Litem Board is ONLY taking surveys from people who made it to the Appeals Panel, that means only 4 parents are eligible to respond?!? You also have to wonder if the GAL appealing the complaint is part of the reason why only 4 complaints made it to the Appeals Panel. The lack of information offered to the public, and lack of communication overall from the MN GAL Board, raises more questions – and contributes confusion about the program.
Maine: Survey is comprised of 12 questions.
The language of the survey is neutral but also encourages feedback. The Guardian ad Litem Services Survey provides “quick links” to the left of the page that offer additional information for parents including Maine Rules for GALs, Complaint Form, Fee Schedule for GALs (and more). The links offer information that clearly state the role and responsibilities of a GAL, which is helpful when doing the survey, and describing the role of a GAL on an individual case.
There are four surveys – because the CPS and family court cases are separated there is a survey offered for parents and attorneys in each category. The questions for each surveys is the same. The public can click on the links and see the questions asked for all surveys (which is nice, and demonstrates transparency).
Opportunity for Feedback:
Minnesota – The GAL survey is open to parents who have worked with GALs in family court or CPS. The survey ONLY deals with one issue – the Complaint Investigation Appeals Panel.
Maine – The survey is open to parents, and their attorneys, who have worked with GALs in family court or CPS. The survey offers participants to provide feedback on several issues, and encourages participants to share their own thoughts or experiences by providing blank comment boxes.
Minnesota – The Guardian ad Litem Board will review survey responses, no further information provided. In Minnesota, the last statewide GAL program audit was conducted in 1995 and the last time public feedback was asked for with comments being publicized was around 1997.
Maine – Survey responses will be anonymous. Results will be summarized in a report that will “be used in the evaluation process of Guardian ad Litem services”. The Judicial Branch is supposed to be making a presentation to the Judiciary Committee on Feb. 15, 2017. As part of that presentation it is expected that the Judicial Branch will be showing what statistics they have collected on their vendors.
The State of Maine has worked overall to increase transparency, and accountability in the GAL program, and has made reports and audits publicly available, including posting results online.
A Call to Action applauds the efforts of the GAL program to conduct a survey, and gather public feedback. We encourage efforts to increase transparency, and accountability, in the GAL program. And to welcome the participation of parents and professionals in these efforts.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? PLZ POST BELOW!
Maine GAL Alert: Guardians ad Litem (GALs) Vendor Services Survey – Ending 2/15/2017
Is the New Maine Guardian ad litem Complaint Process Fair to Parents?
After 20+ Years Minnesota Guardian ad Litem Board STILL Working to Improve Complaint Process
COPY OF THE MINNESOTA GAL SURVEY FEB. 2017
State Guardian ad Litem Board
I am from Minnesota, here are my thoughts on the Guardian ad Litem Progam:
1- The fact to Appeal to the GAL’s supervisor or manger who only cover GAL back is useless. Any legitimate appeal should take seriously and look at by the Panel directely. It is the safety of our children and should be taken seriously. Best interest of the child over the best interest of the GAL.
2- The statue of Limitation- The Time limits.
If Guardian ad Litem Board truly is committed to providing high quality guardian ad litem services, They shouldn’t overlook serious and legitimate complains because of the 30 days limit. It should be time limit to act to try to help rescuing a child in a dangerous situation because of a GAL’s mistake happen more than 30 days. Definitely this rule is NOT in the best interest of the child, and for the best interest of GALs who won’t be worry about a mistake they have done once 30days gone by, they become absolutely protected from scrutiny.
That means even if GAL made a serious mistake which may jeopardize children safety and put them at risk, GAL won’t be accountable if 30days is gone by, the Board would overlook this serious legitimate complaints following their rules of within 30days limit. Apparently the Board is convinced that if these vulnerable voiceless children could tolerate abuse (inflected from people who suppose to protect them) for a period of 30 day, means they could tolerate it for the rest of their life which will be unfair, and illogic. I understand the prospect of the Board on that and that “Board would like to react faster to GAL mistake” which is appreciated, however it is better to take an action against wrong doing late better than not to take it forever, especially if this action related to a safety and welfare of a vulnerable child which GAL appointed to look for their best interest. Definitely, it isn’t for the best interest of the children Not to seek correction of GAL mistake which truly hurt them because it happen more than 30 days!
The complain shouldn’t be GAL’s supervisor who usually cover up for their mistakes. It shouldn’t take 2 times until it goes to Appeal Panel. Complain that has a merit should go to an Appeal Panel ASAP.
If the Complainant is unsatisfied with the manger’s report, should ask for appeal panel within 10days. Again if the 10days is gone by, it will be no right for appeal! Only our children who suffer the consequence of these mistakes. The Board shall make a balance between protecting the best interest of GALs and the best interest of our children whenever they become conflicted.
Complainant shall not use the complains as evidence in court unless it is in the favor of GAL,
Too many time limits that interfere with protecting the best interest of our minor children. children under 18 has the rights to be protected by us, this should be the only time limit (Age of the child). As long as there is a child who is under 18 and suffer from a mistake done to them by GAL, This GAL should be accountable, and the Board should protect the rights of these children rather than looking for protecting GALs who put them in dangerous situations.
Found an older complaint against GAL Susan Olson from 2011. Since then, several complaints have been filed against Olson… as well as other GALs.
The Board, MN GAL Program is opening themselves up to a class action lawsuit. The Board has been made aware of several problem GALs – Susan Olson, Jamie Manning, Zak Chesson, Julie Friedrich (among others) – and refuses to investigate complaints or take any disciplinary action. AFTER the Board has been made aware of serious issues involving instances where GAL violated their mandated duties and contributed to the harm of children, the Program CONTINUES to assign these GALs to other cases. The continued abuse, and suffering of children and the harm done to families could have been avoided had the GAL program done their job!!!
Complaint Sent for the Guardian Ad Litem Minnesota 6 comments
I am writing a formal complaint against guardian Sue Olson, who on August, 16th 2011, violated several of my rights during court for a Temporary Order of Protection. I obtained a temporary order of protection from the Hennepin County Courthouse on August, 4th 2011, case number 27-FA-11-5570. When I filed the temporary order of protection I made sure that the court knew that there were ongoing custody issues in Georgia regarding my son.
It was during a visit to Minnesota that my son Peyton Hopkins who is six started to open up to me about what was going on at his dad’s house. I called the guardian ad litem involved in the Georgia case on August 2nd. She told me to return my son immediately. I then called the department of family and children services in both Minnesota and Georgia. Minnesota told me to file for an order of protection on my sons behalf. I immediately filed an order on his behalf which was granted on August 4th. The court date was on August 16th. On Monday August 6th, I received a call from a detective Jones in Peachtree City regarding Peyton’s return. I gave detective Jones the Order of Protection that was issued in Minnesota. She then gave it to the guardian ad litem here and my husband.
When I showed up for court on August 16th I was informed that the order had not been served and a new court date would be ordered. I went upstairs to speak to the court. The guardian ad litem on duty for the court date started to question me regarding the circumstances. It was clear she didn’t believe what I was saying from the start. She talked to my son for about thirty seconds and then announced I was coaching him. I had coached him to say these things. In court she brought up the fact that she felt Peyton was coached and said that it should be dismissed because of jurisdiction because of the ongoing court proceedings in Georgia. I was completely devastated. I was unable to submit any evidence I had that proved the abuse was not coached. I was also forced to return my son to an abusive home.
My rights were completely violated according to UCCJEA. Because this was an interstate issue this case fell under the federal regulations of the UCCJEA signed by all states in the United States.
Under the UCCJEA there are two requirements for Temporary Emergency Jurisdiction.
Child must be physically present in the state; and
Necessary in an emergency to protect child because child or a sibling or parent of child is subjected to or threatened with mistreatment or abuse.
Proper notice and opportunity to be heard given the opposing party before a custody determination is made.
Because I already had the Temporary order of Protection I fell under this category when deciding jurisdiction. On August 16th the court declined jurisdiction based upon an Inconvenient Forum thus violating my rights and my son’s rights.
Also the UCCJEA states that Custody determination will proceed even though a court declines to assert jurisdiction under inconvenient forum grounds and finds that another court is a more convenient forum. Court declining to assert jurisdiction must stay the proceedings “upon condition that a child custody proceeding will be promptly commenced in another state.
This was not done at all even though the court in Minnesota declined because of Inconvenient Forum
According to the UCCJEA courts are authorized to communicate with each other about any proceeding under the UCCJEA.
Parties may participate in any communications between courts.
If parties are not able to participate in such communications, the parties must be given the opportunity to present facts and legal arguments before a decision on jurisdiction is made.
Courts are required to make a record of their communication and to promptly inform the parties of such communication and grant them access to same.
The guardian at litem, Sue Olson spoke with the guardian ad litem in Geogia, Carol Orleck before court. I had no knowledge of this until Jen who works for a domestic abuse organization let me know after speaking with Sue Olson. Jen’s phone number is 612-673-3525. Jen was also a guardian ad litem and familiar with the system. I received no notification regarding this correspondence and it has been detrimental to my case here because according to Carol Orleck GAL in Georgia. Sue Olson said that it was the worst coaching case she had ever seen in her history. I was not allowed to present my children’s statements, psychological evaluations or have my two oldest children testify.
I want to make a couple of more points regarding this. Under the UCCJEA, the two courts were required to communicate with each other.
Under an Inconvenient Forum, the issue can be raised upon a motion of a party, the court’s own motion or at the request or another court. A Guardian Ad Litem may not raise the issue of Inconvenient Forum. Sue Olson is the one who brought up the proceedings in Georgia and told the judge that she thought it should go back there.
The UCCJEA requires that a court that is declining jurisdiction is required to stay proceedings “upon condition that a child custody proceeding be promptly commenced in another state”
In deciding to decline jurisdiction on the basis of inconvenient forum, the court must consider all the relevant factors, including
Whether domestic violence has occurred and is likely to continue in the future and which state could best protect the parties and the child.
The length of time the child has resided outside the state
The distance between the inconvenient forum court and the more appropriate forum court.
The relative financial circumstances of the parties.
Any agreement of the parties as to which state should assume jurisdiction
The nature and location of the evidence needed to resolve the case, including testimony of the child
The ability of the court of each state to decide the issue expeditiously and the procedures necessary to present the evidence
Because of the actions of Sue Olson and the Hennepin County Court System there has been irreversible damage to my family. My rights and my children’s rights were clearly violated. I ask that this matter be formally looked into.
In 2013, had a family court case where the GAL in Anoka Co recommended SOLE custody to an alcoholic abuser and told me that I am an unfit parent because I raised concerns about his dangerous behavior including driving drunk in the car with my 4 year old son…. The judge went along with the lies of the GAL and actually gave him sole custody. I had to go through almost a year of supervised visitation and now get e/o weekend. I pay almost half my income in child support and live in poverty.
I didn’t even bother filing a complaint because when I raised concerns with the judge the GAL retaliated against me. I tried speaking to the program manager but she didn’t return my phone calls. I looked at this survey and it doesn’t seem like someone with an older complaint like mine fits those questions. And the survey doesn’t even address the concerns I have.
A survey won’t bring my child home anyways. My child is growing up in a home with an alcoholic abusive father – GALs should be advocating for the child NOT the abuser!