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 and become a nationwide model for serving children.
The first program started in Marlboro County in August of 1984. Working closely with local legislators and judges, McCarter was able to quickly expand the idea to other counties. Within five years, a program was operational in every judicial circuit throughout the state.
McCarter served as 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, 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 McCarter did not live to see her vision completed, her legacy continues to serve the children of this state. Since 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. On average, the program serves more than 14,000 children per year.
In 2019, the Cass Elias McCarter Guardian ad Litem program became a division of the South Carolina Department of Children’s Advocacy.