RESOURCE FRIDAY!

Ok, it’s been a while since I’ve added a RESOURCE FRIDAY post. BUT here’s one I couldn’t resist.

For attorneys and others interested in becoming Guardians ad Litem (GALs) in Abuse, Neglect or Exploitation cases for Vulnerable Adults in South Carolina, there is a resource page just for you – click here.

And, for those of you who aren’t already familiar with lawhelp.org/sc, you may want to check it out! It’s chock full of nifty tips and resources!

-RFW

Help Protect Vulnerable Adults! Volunteer as a Pro Bono GAL . . .

Help Protect South Carolina’s Vulnerable Adults!

Volunteer Today as a Pro Bono Attorney Guardian Ad Litem in APS Abuse, Neglect or Exploitation Cases!

On November 20, 2009, the Supreme Court of South Carolina amended Rule 608 so that attorneys will no longer be appointed as Guardians ad Litem (GALs) in Family Court. This amendment takes effect NEXT WEEK on July 1, 2010. (http://www.sccourts.org/whatsnew/displayWhatsNew.cfm?indexId=600)
While there are GAL programs in effect to cover DSS Child Protective cases, there are no such programs for Adult Protective cases.
South Carolina APS Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation Cases 2007-2009
The Need is Great

An ad hoc group has formed to develop a plan to address the GAL system for Emergency Adult Protective Service cases. The group has decided to implement a six-month stop gap in which volunteer attorneys will serve as GALs in APS cases until December 2010.

Attorneys interested in volunteering to serve as volunteer GALs in APS cases should contact Cindy Coker at (803) 799-6653, ext. 142 or ccoker@scbar.org.

Volunteers will receive pro bono credit for appointments.

-RFW

Congratulations Richland County CASA!

Spotlight on RC CASA

The National CASA has award Richland County CASA with their Promising Practices Spotlight this April 17, 2010, during their recognition banquet at the National CASA Association Annual Conference held in Atlanta, GA.

According to their site:

Promising Practices Spotlights highlight original activities, programs, projects or events that enhance the CASA/GAL program’s ability to deliver on the mission of providing court-appointed volunteer advocacy to abused and neglected children. More than one program may be highlighted each year.

For a list of other award winners, click here.

-RFW

Guest Blog: Richland County CASA

Remember a few weeks back, January 13th to be precise, I posted about Richland County CASA“This is how RCCASA does it!”? Well, I’m excited to host their guest post:

Since our training presentation for the South Carolina Bar Foundation in 2008, RCCASA has continued its aggressive efforts in male recruitment. This presentation was the first of many.

RCCASA was nationally recognized for its success in the implementation of a “best practice” recruitment model and trained CASA programs across the United States that included Washington, Texas, Hawaii, Washington, D.C., Florida and this year RCCASA will be presenting at the National CASA conference in 2010.

We held our own National Conference in Columbia, SC and individuals from Ohio, Florida, Colorado, and Texas visited our sunny state to learn how to recruit male volunteers Although our program has celebrated successes, we find that it is an on-going effort and we continue to be faced with challenges.

As we serve more children, more male volunteers are needed.

Our program felt the impact of the economic crisis. Funding was an issue but more importantly our volunteers were greatly impacted. Many volunteers were faced with relocation and others were faced with decreasing the amount of time they could spend volunteering. Our most committed, dedicated volunteers were taking on second jobs, reentering the workforce, and volunteers who were once retired were now employed.

Beginning July 1, 2010, RCCASA will need to be able to serve 100% of the children.

We are rising to the challenge and will be increasing our recruitment efforts. We are proud of the job our volunteers have done and know that our ability to serve 100% of the children will mean these children will have a strong advocate.

So in a nutshell what does this really mean……It means that more than ever we NEED YOUR assistance in making this happen.  You may not be able to volunteer but you may have a spouse, co-worker, brother, friend, or colleague. Out biggest recruitment tool has been through word of mouth and when you tell someone about CASA, you are making a difference in the lives of the abused and neglected children in our community.

This is how RCCASA does it!

In early 2008, I was fortunate to attend the South Carolina Bar Foundation‘s Grantee Gathering. One of the special features was Richland County CASA‘s Quarterback Training seen in this video.

Why is this video so important?

Because it highlights a specific recruiting effort by Richland County CASA (RCCASA) for male volunteers. About 9 minutes into the video we learn why this is so important – because 60% of the children served by CASA are male whereas a few years back most volunteers were female.

The children served by RCCASA are children who are involved in the Family Court system and are the subjects of abuse or neglect investigations. It is fairly frequent that the only stable person in these childrens’ lives is the CASA representative, the Guardian ad Litem (GAL).

RCCASA recognized that these children needed volunteers who would also be able to serve as a role model. They saw the need and modified their recruitment plan to fulfill the need.

If you are interested in volunteering or learning more about RCCASA, click here.

-RFW

The GOOD Lawyer

Request for Attorney Denied

Imagine this scenario:

Child is removed by SC DSS from a single parent home due to allegations of child abuse or neglect.  Single parent, a mother, is working, but making very little and falling well within the federal poverty guidelines.

Child is assigned an attorney Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to represent the child in court. The GAL, whether attorney, SC Volunteer GAL Program or Richland County CASA volunteer, looks out for the child’s best interest.

Mother cannot afford an attorney.

At the first SC DSS hearing, Mother asks the court to provide her with an attorney. The attorney GAL walks with Mother to the Clerk of Court’s office to help her fill out paperwork to apply for a court-appointed attorney. The clerk asks Mother for the $40 fee to accompany the application. Mother does not have $40 to pay the fee. Mother does not have $20 to pay the fee. The attorney GAL asks if the clerk can make an exception and waive the fee. The clerk refuses to waive the fee. Mother has no attorney.

The attorney GAL is concerned. She is aware that Mother cannot afford an attorney, and that this is a serious legal issue; one in which there is potential for Mother to lose custody of her child. And Mother is unrepresented.

Do you think this is FAIR? Do you think this is JUSTICE?

What if I tell you that this scenario is real? Does that change your mind?

Well, it is based on a similar real-life situation.

Fact Recap: Child taken from single parent – Mother – based on allegation of abuse and neglect. Mother works, but does not make a lot of money. Mother shows in court unrepresented. Mother tries to get attorney appointed WITH assistance from attorney representing her child. The Mother is still not able to get an attorney to represent her because she CANNOT pay $40 filing fee and is unable to get a waiver.

What happens next?

Attorney representing Mother followed up. She contacted several people, none of whom were judges, to see if anything could be done to waive the fee. She was given a contact name and followed up. Mother will be receiving a court appointed attorney.

Does this mean Mother will prevail?

Not sure. It will depend on the facts of the case and adherence to any treatment plans or court orders.

Does it mean that the GAL thinks the child should have stayed in the home?

I don’t know. Honestly I didn’t ask the question. Either way though, the Mother is in the midst of a crisis. Her child has been removed from her home. It’s likely that she is (choose one:) distraught/embarrassed/angry/other emotion . As I’ve noted on numerous occasions, when emotions are high, it sometimes takes away our ability to reason or rationally make an argument or listen to court proceedings. An attorney provides a buffer for the emotional client, and makes the proceedings more well-reasoned.

So? Why are you bringing up this issue?

Because I so often hear that attorneys are just *blankety-blank bottom-feeders* AND I know better. And this is a perfect example of that. This attorney went beyond her ethical duty to ensure that the Mother in a case receives legal assistance.

Unfortunately I won’t give more details or name the attorney because this is an on-going case and I don’t want to identify anyone or give away confidences. Suffice it to say that this attorney will hold a dear place in my heart.

Thank you anonymous attorney!

-RFW