I have been a GAL for almost 16 years and there are a few things I wish foster parents knew.
- My job is to represent the best interest of the child. I do not represent the foster parents. As much as I like you as a placement or think the child will have more advantages with you, if reunification is appropriate they are going home. If family comes forward and are appropriate the child is probably moving. I have sent kids home I didn’t want to, but I have to follow the law. I will always do my best to do what is best for the kids.
- Please assume that I don’t already know. DCS case workers are busy or don’t know they are supposed to include us. If you think it is important or it is bothering you, PLEASE reach out to the GAL or their social worker. I can’t help or fix anything I don’t know about. I would rather have more information than I need rather than not enough. Everyone has email, just copy us.
- You are not being ignored. I have a lot of cases and each child is important, sometimes getting back to people is a matter of triage, the most urgent first. I do my best to keep up with emails and phone calls as soon as possible, but sometimes it takes a few days. Please be patient we are all doing the best we can.
- Be specific, it is helpful to know what you need before I call you back. I will try to find the answer before I get back to you.
- The best way to know what is happening is coming to court. You can come in person or call into the court room by phone.
- There are things that I can’t tell you, but know you are entitled to any information you need to take care of the child, this is pretty broad.
- Please don’t forget the appointments we make. It is beyond frustrating to schedule an appointment and not have anyone home. We are required to see the kids by statute, if you need to cancel please let us know, we will be happy to work around your schedule.
- Placements are really the backbone of the system. You are appreciated. I think you have one of the hardest jobs on the team. You are also the people who usually know the most about what is happening. Again, information is always helpful.
- Every case is different because every family is different. What happened in someone else’s case may not happen in yours.
- Parents are not the enemy. Obviously something happened that led a child to be in foster care. I in no way excuse what the parents did, but sometimes it really is a product of their past and current circumstances. They still love their kids. Assuming they are all horrible people does not help the kids. Start a notebook with the parents, give them pictures, sometimes that makes all the difference. You do not have to provide any personal information to parents.
Thank you for all you do!!!
Aimee Youngblood, Guardian Ad Litem