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Juvenile Court Dependency Guardian ad Litem

In Juvenile Court dependency proceedings, a child has a right to an attorney at all stages of the proceeding and the court shall appoint an attorney for the alleged dependent child. (O.C.G.A. §15-11-103)

In addition to the child's attorney, the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA, 42. U.S.C. 5106, et.seq.) as well as State law (O.C.G.A. §15-11-104)  require the appointment of a guardian ad litem to represent an abused or neglected child in all stages of a judicial proceeding. 

The child’s attorney may serve as GAL unless or until a conflict of interest arises.  (O.C.G.A.§15-11-104)

A GAL can be an attorney or a non-attorney.  In the case of a non-attorney, Georgia law requires the court to appoint a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer to serve as GAL whenever possible, and a CASA may be appointed in addition to an attorney serving as the child’s Guardian ad Litem.  (O.C.G.A.§15-11-104) 

It is also required that before the appointment as a guardian ad litem in dependency cases in Juvenile Court, such person shall have received training appropriate to the role as guardian ad litem which is administered or approved by the Office of the Child Advocate for the Protection of Children (OCA). (OCGA 15-11-104(f))

This language mirrors the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) which requires that attorneys or court-appointed special advocates who are appointed as guardians ad litem (GAL) receive training appropriate to their role. CAPTA section 106(b)(2)(B)(xiii). The statute is clear that the State must have provisions and procedures in place to assure that every child who is the subject of an abuse or neglect proceeding is appointed a GAL, and that the GAL receive training appropriate to the role, including training that addresses early childhood, child, and adolescent development, prior to being to represent appointed the child in the proceeding regardless of whether the GAL is an attorney or court-appointed special advocate.

Guardian ad Litem Training Opportunities for Attorneys:

Juvenile Court GAL-Attorney Training Seminar
SAVE THE DATE
Through collaboration among the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council, Office of the Child Advocate, DeKalb Juvenile Court, and the DeKalb County Child Advocacy Center; a statewide training seminar geared for Juvenile Court Attorney-GALs is being developed. The training seminar will be held on Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 at the State Bar of Georgia and broadcast live to locations in Savannah, Tifton and Forsyth.  Space is limited and additional venues may open as needed.  This training is approved by the Office of the Child Advocate and will apply for 7.5 CLE credit hours, including 1 Ethics and 1 Professionalism. 

Topics will include:
A View from the Bench:  Judicial Expectations when Appointing GALs
The impact of Corporal Punishment on Child Development
 How to Interview Children
New Code Requirements and the Indian Child Welfare Act
Panel Discussion:  The Importance of Educational Stability


The full agenda and registration information will be made available at www.parentattorney.org under the Training Tab.
 

For lawyers who seek pre-appointment Guardian Ad Litem training, the Institute of Continuing Legal Education in Georgia has a program available on-line which has been approved for CLE credits at www.iclega.org

The State Bar of Georgia also offers Child Welfare Attorney Training biannually, typically in April and October of each year.

GAL training is also available at the Youth Law Conference which is held once a year. The 2015 date will be posted as soon as it becomes available.

The Office of the Child Advocate will continue to update their website with information on future training schedules. 

Local jurisdictions are also encouraged to develop their own GAL training curriculum.  For assistance or to submit a curriculum to OCA for approval of training content, please contact Ashley Willcott, Director of the Office of the Child Advocate at awillcott@oca.ga.gov or by phone at 404-656-4200.

Guardian ad Litem Training Opportunities for non-Attorneys:

Georgia  CASA's 40-hour preservice training curriculum has been approved as meeting the CAPTA requirement for non-attorney GALs.  Training is conducted at the annual CASA meeting and throughout the year at various local CASAs.  You can contact your local CASA for more information on volunteering and training with CASA or visit Georgia CASA at www.gacasa.org.  (See more information on CASA under the next Training tab)

If there is not a CASA program located in your community, call your local Juvenile Court for lay GAL training opportunities. 

All lay GAL training must be approved by OCA to meet the requirements to be an approved GAL.  The Office of the Child Advocate will continue to update their website with information on additional non-attorney GAL training.

Local jurisdictions are also encouraged to develop their own GAL training curriculum.  For assistance or to submit a curriculum to OCA for approval of training content, please contact Ashley Willcott, Director of the Office of the Child Advocate at awillcott@oca.ga.gov or by phone at 404-656-4200.