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!
COPY OF THE MINNESOTA GAL SURVEY FEB. 2017