Guardian ad litem program seeks more volunteers
by Robert Joseph Baker | December 4, 2017 7:40 am
Officials with the Cass Elias McCarter Guardian ad Litem Program are inviting Clarendon residents to bring hope and stability to an abused and negleted child during this holiday season.
“For many of us, this time of year brings thoughts of family, friends and gratitude,” said Program Coordinator Celestine J. Cooper.
But, nationally, Cooper said, more than 500,000 children annually suffer abuse or neglect, often resulting in the need for court intervention.
“A guardian ad litem volunteer is the eyes and ears for a judge and the person who tells the child’s story to the court,” Cooper said. “A volunteer’s advocacy ensures that children have a safe, permanent home and the appropriate services to lead a healthy, successful life.”
Cooper noted that “ordinary people make an extraordinary difference in the lives of abused and neglected children.”
For La Quonda Vanderhorst, the decision to become a child advocate was an easy one.
“The reason why I decided to become a Guardian ad Litem was so that I could make a difference in a child’s life and give them hope for a better future,” said Vanderhorst. “I grew up wanting to help people, so when I learned about the Guardian ad Litem program, I knew it was the opportunity I was looking for to truly make a positive difference,”
Research has found that once a GAL volunteer is assigned,about 95 percent of children do not languish in long-term foster care and 90 percent of children never re-enter the child welfare system. Training, support and supervision are offered to assist volunteers as they work to make a difference for children.
To volunteer, you must be at least 21 years old, be able to pass background and reference checks and successfully complete the free 30-hour training. The next training session for Clarendon County will be held Jan. 9, 2018.
For more information, email Cooper at celestine.cooper.admin.sc.gov or call her at (803) 435-7012.