What is a GaL? Not just a cute name for a girl. A Guardian ad Litem is a lawyer, who is assigned to a child in foster care, and their job is to represent the best interest of the children they serve. If a child in foster care is 12 and older, they are legally able to request another attorney. The other lawyer advocates for what that child wants. The lighthearted example that Kim Turner shared with us is that a GaL will advocate that their client needs to eat vegetables every day, and their personal attorney can advocate that the child would like to eat candy instead. Obviously the issues are more serious, but that’s a picture of the two lawyers’ roles in a foster child’s case.
: for the lawsuit or action : appointed by the court to represent a client or estate in a particular legal actionMerriam Webster
There is recourse for GaLs who neglect to visit their clients before a court hearing! They must sign affidavits that state that they visited their clients! So if you are a foster parent who has never heard from your GaL, you need to speak up! But keep in mind that the GaL may send out a social worker who represents their law office, and this is the norm. Kim Turner, who has been practicing Juvenile Law for 15 years. She has 100 cases, which involves 150+ children. THAT’S A LOT OF KIDS! She has 3 amazing Social Workers who work for her, and they often go out to visit the foster children and report back to Kim. She makes every effort to visit the children herself. But her main job is to be at court, representing her clients in front of a judge.
Kim mentioned that a new law was passed in August of 2018, and here are some facts about it:
“SB1473, enacted into law on August 3, 2018, amended Arizona’s child welfare statutes in important ways. The legislature adopted these changes in an 87:1 vote, demonstrating the strong consensus behind the spirit and letter of the reforms.
“The law creates a presumption that foster families who have cared for an infant for nine months or more are kin. If, after nine months, a party wants to move an infant to another relation or placement, the change of placement must be in the infant’s best interest;
“When a child is taken into custody, DCS is now specifically required to make an initial search for adult relatives of the child within thirty days from the date the child is taken into custody. In performing the initial search, DCS must exercise due diligence in identifying and notifying a child’s adult kin (including those adults with a significant relationship) within that thirty-day time frame.” Read more here.
We also referenced Michelle Obama’s new book, as well as Kevin Hart’s biography, in our Light Bulb Moments. Both books are wonderful and worth the read. Notably, the listen may be better – both are read by the authors in the audio versions on Audible!
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.Philippians 4:8
This was our good Word for episode 49 as well, but it’s because it is so powerful. It is easy to be jaded by the grim facts and figures of foster care. The children in the system are victims who deal with trauma every single day. The Bible commands us to care for orphans and widows, but foster kids are not necessarily orphans! So many of them have parents, and they daily deal with their allegiance to their biological families, and life in foster care. So even though these children are not orphans, ALL CHILDREN need caring adults who love them, support them, and can guide them at every stage of life.
Thanks SO MUCH to Kim Turner for being our amazing guest on this week’s episode. If you would like to get in touch with her, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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