“Despite efforts to improve oversight, concerns remain about the quality of guardian ad litem services and the extent to which guardians are representing the best interest of the vulnerable population they serve…”
There is still time to provide written comments concerning the Guardian ad Litem Program!
You may contact Jodi Munson Rodríguez, program evaluation manager by e-mail at: email@example.com
**BREAKING NEWS FROM MINNESOTA** The Legislative Audit Committee met on April 6, 2017 and has selected the Guardian ad Litem Program for audit.
Read Here for More Information: OLA Guardian ad Litem Topic Selection Background Paper April 2017
The Guardian ad Litem program (GAL) was last audited in 1995 – that is 22 years ago and showed significant problems existing within the GAL program and recommended measures to improve services. Guardians ad Litem: Executive Summary (95-03) February 28, 1995
Since that time several scandals have exposed problems existing within the struggling GAL program. In addition, numerous complaints have been raised about the State Guardian ad Litem Board, managing the program, and individual Guardians have been raised by concerned parents, and professionals involved with cases.
In 2016, around 17,000 children in Minnesota were represented by a Guardian ad Litem in about 8,000 cases. A GAL is an advocate for a child or vulnerable adult involved in legal proceedings (CPS or family court). According to OLA,”In Fiscal Year 2016, the (State GAL) board spent about $14 million from the General Fund and $700,000 from court fees paid to the board. At the end of 2016, the board had 214 paid (164 full-time equivalents) and 365 volunteer guardians ad litem.”
The Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) has identified these possible evaluation issues for the audit:
1. To what extent has the Guardian ad Litem Board established appropriate and effective policies since it was created in 2010? How effective is this governance structure?
2. How well does the board recruit, train, monitor, and evaluate guardians ad litem?
3. To what extent are the program’s processes for resolving complaints against guardians ad litem fair and effective?
According to Minnesota OLA, Program Evaluation Division, state law requires the GAL Program to fully cooperate with the audit process. The Board, and staff, involved with the GAL program must provide OLA staff with access to ALL data and documents, even those classified by law as “not public”. If cooperation is not forthcoming, OLA has the legal authority to compel cooperation through subpoenas.
The Minnesota State Guardian ad Litem Board recently released a response, and results from a recent survey concerning the GAL Complaint Process.
Both the response from the GAL Board, and the results of the survey indicate significant problems exist within the MN GAL program – involving mismanagement, lack of accountability in the program overall and GAL misconduct that endangers children.
The Board’s response to the survey shows a disconnect between their concerns and that of the public – the recommendations offered by the Board as a result of the survey do not address concerns with the safety and well-being of children, nor is there any ideas offered on how to address misconduct or inappropriate behavior by GALs.
The survey include responses from 16 parents, the feedback given is disturbing, and shows exactly why an audit of the program is needed.
Some of the feedback –
Under “Q3: What has your experience been with the complaint process?” the following comments were left:
- It was horrible. The GAL didn’t take any of my evidence into consideration. She belittled me and allowed my child’s dad to get away with everything and put my child through a lot of stress and anxiety. She didn’t put the child’s best interest in mind and instead made her own decision based on false unprovable information instead of looking at the true info that was sitting in front of her. It is now 6 years later and all the tests that were supposed to be done weren’t and there was no reprocussions against the father. Being that the tests were psychological, psychosexual and neurological testing the GAL should have been checking up after the court case but never did. Now my child has long term affects caused by the GAL not performing her job adequately or in the child’s best interest.
- They ignored me and the major complaints affecting my children.
- I don’t feel complaints are being heard or taken seriously. Example – have you seen the stuff posted online by GAL ___? The guy is posting rock videos that include scenes of S&M bondage… and yet complaints filed against him are unmerited?!? How many families, and kids, have to be hurt before you do something??
- My ex complained and I was contacted for input.
- I was penalized by the GAL. It did traumatic Damage to my child and continues to traumatized my child.
- It’s a joke, they just send out form letters and do not interview the kids themselves or school members/teachers. I have not seen my daughter in 3 years. No follow up as why and to prevent the now long term damage from going on. I have never done anything wrong.
Under “Complaint Process Recommendations” the following comments were left:
- They shouldn’t overlook serious and legitimate complains just because it isn’t within 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….
- A GAL is given an attorney, paid for at tax payer’s expense, when a complaint is filed. Yet I as a parent am not offered any legal help for the same issue. That creates an inequality of power that hinders a parent’s ability to defend themselves…
Under “General Program Recommendations” this comment was left:
- Statues must be followed and if not there should be discipline . The GAL is suppose to be independent and unbiased and not good friends with the social worker. She is to be professional in her actions and not rude to the families involved . To be prompt on her investigation of facts of the case and not rely solely on the social workers word. They are relied on by the judge to be fair and unbiased . They need more training in these areas .
A Call to Action supports the efforts of OLA to conduct an audit of the GAL program.
In addition, A Call to Action has previously written an article citing many problems with the issuance of the survey above. The lack of response to the survey should be remedied, and another survey issued. When the survey was put online by the GAL Board, it was hidden on their website, in an obscure place. The main page of the GAL Board website did not include any notice that the survey existed and offered no instructions on how to find it. The survey was not published in a newspaper or public leaflet, it was not posted in courthouses or self help centers. This survey is not reaching its potential if the public is not aware it exists, and able to respond. Maine and Minnesota Conduct Surveys on GAL Program (2017)
If you are a parent in Minnesota who has been impacted, or your child impacted, by the failures of the GAL program, you are not alone. Contact A Call to Action to be part of the movement working to reform, and improve, family court and CPS. A Call to Action also offers peer support and community resources.
E-mail: pakcomments at live dot com for more information