What is a Guardian ad Litem?
What do GALs do?
GAL volunteers get to know the child and everyone involved in the child’s life, including family, teachers, doctors, social workers and others. They gather information about the child and what the child needs. Their recommendations to the court help the judge make an informed decision about a child’s future. GAL volunteers provide a stable presence in a child’s life, remaining on each case until the child finds a safe, permanent home.
Who can serve as a volunteer GAL?
GAL volunteers are people like you. Some volunteers work full time, some are retired, some are students, some are teachers, some are grandparents; but they are all extraordinary people who want to make the voices of abused and neglected children heard.
Why are there volunteer GALs?
In South Carolina, children do not normally go to court. That means that children are not present when decisions about whether or not they return home, or other decisions about their futures are being made. GAL volunteers bridge that gap and tell the judge what the child wants, without having to traumatize them in a courtroom setting.
Where do I go to become a volunteer GAL?
You can sign up by following the steps on our Volunteer page or you can call 1.800.277.0113 to find out more.
Our History: Cass Elias McCarter
In 1984, a young woman from Columbia, South Carolina, worked tirelessly in establishing the first state-funded volunteer program for child advocacy. Cass Elias McCarter had a vision of protecting South Carolina’s children. Through perseverance and hard work she secured a grant to start a volunteer Guardian ad Litem program. With the help of one assistant, she began to transform her vision into a volunteer force that would eventually blanket the state.
The first program started in Marlboro County in August of 1984. Working closely with local legislators and judges, Cass was able to quickly expand the idea to other counties. Within five years, a program was operational in every judicial circuit throughout the state. In recent years, South Carolinians have volunteered in record numbers to advocate for abused and neglected children in the Family Court system. In fiscal year 2017-2018, the program had 2,216 advocates serving over 14,000 children.
Cass was the director of the program for eight years. After her retirement, she continued to dedicate herself to protecting and serving children in need. Through her work with Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House, she devoted herself to improving the health and welfare of children and families in South Carolina.
On March 23, 2004, at the age of 50, Cass Elias McCarter lost her life to a brain aneurism. To honor this remarkable woman, the South Carolina Legislature passed a bill in 2010, changing the name of the program to the Cass Elias McCarter Guardian ad Litem Program.
Although Cass did not live to see her vision completed, her legacy continues to serve the children of this state. Starting July 1, 2010, every child with an abuse or neglect case in South Carolina Family Court has been appointed a volunteer Guardian ad Litem to be their advocate. Cass created a program that is now a nationwide model for the goal of serving all children.