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:
The Office of the Child Advocate is pleased to offer an on-line Guardian ad Litem training. This training satisfies the pre-appointment training requirement of OCGA 15-11-104(f) for attorneys who intend to serve as Guardian's ad Litem in Juvenile Court Depedency cases. Attorneys who complete the training will be eligible to receive 9 continuing legal education credits including 3 hours of trial credit and 1 hour of ethics credit. Please click here to register for the training and for more information.
Guardian ad Litem Training Opportunities for non-Attorneys:
Georgia CASA's (Court Appointed Special Advocate) 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 CASA locations. You can contact your local CASA for more information on volunteering and training with CASA or visit Georgia CASA at www.gacasa.org. You can also find more information about CASA here.
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 its website with information on additional non-attorney GAL training.