Assistance to children is sought regionally

Dec. 18, 2013 @ 06:48 PM

Childen who are under juvenile court jurisdiction need advocates to protect their rights and reach the best possible resolution of their situation.

The need is particularly great in Vance County, according to Wynona Thomas, program supervisor for the Guardian ad Litem Program in the 9th Judicial District.

“I have 20 children that do not have an advocate,” she said.

To meet that need, the Guardian ad Litem Program is recruiting volunteers to train as advocates.

The next class will start on Jan. 10.

“The training will be held in the Granville County Courthouse,” Thomas said. “We rotate among our counties, but we need advocates from any of our counties.” The 9th Judicial District includes Vance, Granville, Warren and Franklin counties.

Thomas said interested individuals can call her at (252) 430-5121 for an application, or they can download an application from the N.C. Courts website at nccourts.org/Citizens/GAL.

Candidates will be asked to submit three references and must pass a criminal background check.

The training program includes 30 hours of instruction, offered twice a week for five weeks. The sessions will be held on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The program is available in every county in North Carolina. Children are placed under juvenile court jurisdiction when they have been abused or neglected. But they do not have to go into court alone if they have a guardian ad litem to speak for them and protect their interests. An attorney is present to provide legal advice.

While the advocate must learn much about the child’s circumstances and needs, there are services that a guardian ad litem does not provide, such as transportation, mentoring or providing recreation.

There are no specific requirements to become a guardian ad litem. The main qualification is a concern for the well being of children.

But two other qualifications are particularly desirable.

“I would love to have more males,” Thomas said. “And someone who speaks Spanish.”

 

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.