Guardian Ad Litem
It is our mission to provide a well-trained, highly effective Guardian ad Litem to advocate for the best interests of every abused, neglected and maltreated child who comes before Minnesota's Juvenile and Family Courts, to ensure that each child obtains a safe, nurturing and permanent home as quickly as possible.
What is a Guardian Ad Litem?
A Guardian ad Litem is an advocate for a child whose welfare is a matter of concern for the court. In legal terms, it means "guardian for the lawsuit." When the court is making decisions that will affect a child's future, the child needs and deserves a spokesperson - an objective adult to provide independent information about the best interests of the child.
While other parties in the case are concerned about the child, the Guardian ad Litem is the only person in the case whose sole concern is the best interests of the child, and he or she is assigned as an advocate for the child for the duration of the court process. Different from a legal guardian, the Guardian ad Litem has no control over the person or property of the child and does not provide a home for the child. The Guardian ad Litem does not function as the child's attorney and does not provide direct services to the child. Guardians ad Litem in Minnesota include volunteers, independent contractors, and state employees.
There are 3 primary functions:
- Information-gathering for the court
- Current circumstances and needs of the child
- What has happened to the child
- Making recommendations to the court
- What permanent resolution is in the best interests of the child
- What services and treatment plans should be ordered for the child and family
- What the child needs to be safe
- Advocating for speedy decisions that take into account the impact of delays and time on the child
Role in Court
Based on their independent information gathering about the case, and their contact with the child and other people concerned, the Guardian ad Litem comes to court and makes recommendations to the judge what they think would be in the best interests of the child.
Guardian ad Litem input is one of several important pieces of information the judge uses in making an informed ruling on behalf of the child. Guardians ad Litem need to be an independent voice that is not influenced by any other party's interest or position. A Guardian ad Litem who can tell the court "I was there -- this is what I observed" can be invaluable.
Background & Training
Guardians ad Litem come from a variety of personal and professional backgrounds. A concern for children and a willingness to speak up for a child's best interests are important qualifications. Guardians ad Litem are responsible adults with good judgment and the common sense that comes with life experience.
All advocates are required to complete an intensive preservice training program before receiving their first case assignment. There are continuing educational opportunities to enhance skills and ongoing support and supervision are provided.