Meet Sam Hodges

Helen “Sam” Hodges, Circuit Coordinator for the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) program in Horry and Georgetown Counties, wears a Mickey Mouse watch, a warm smile and a positive attitude, in spite of dealing, on a daily basis, with children who have suffered unimaginable horrors. Sam recruits, trains and places volunteer GALs with children who are brought into the court system as a result of abuse, neglect or abandonment. A Myrtle Beach native, Sam loves the Grand Strand area. She is single and lives with her two beloved dogs and “numerous” cats.

November 2007 Candid

What led you to become the coordinator for our Guardian ad Litem program?

I was a social worker with DSS when I decided to go to law school. After graduation, I worked in the Solicitor’s office for nine years, mostly with juveniles. This position just seemed like a natural progression for me. I want to make a difference in as many children’s lives as possible.

Do we need more volunteer GALs?

Yes! Right now, I have 45 trained volunteers in Horry County and need at least 100 to serve all of our children. We need caring men and women who would like to make a difference in the life of a child.

What is involved in becoming a Guardian ad Litem?

First, you do not need ANY special training. If you have a love for children and a caring heart, I will provide you with everything else you need. You have to be over 21 and willing to undergo a SLED background check, as well as a Child Abuse and Neglect Registry check. After these are complete, each volunteer is required to attend 30 hours of pre-service training and do a few hours of courtroom observation. During the training, volunteers learn how the court system works, what to expect from the children they serve, how to communicate with troubled children, as well as how to spot what each child needs and how to get it for them.

What exactly does a volunteer Guardian ad Litem do?

Every Monday and Thursday, hearings are held for child abuse and neglect cases. I will then assign a GAL to the case. The GAL visits the child at least once a month to see how they are doing, and establishes a trusting relationship. If the child is an infant, this may mean rocking a baby who is suffering from drug withdrawal, or in the case of an older child, reading a book together or just talking. The GAL tries to determine what services the child needs and may arrange for counseling, tutoring or even music lessons.

Volunteers can specify if they would rather work with babies, for example, or if they feel more comfortable with older children. I tell volunteers, if they can make a difference in just one life, they are a success.

Are there volunteer opportunities for people who can’t work directly with the children?

Yes. In Horry County we have a non-profit, volunteer support organization, Heroes for Children. One of their current projects is raising money for our foster care bag program. With the help of local churches, a bag containing basic necessities is provided for the children, who many times come into the system with only the clothes on their backs. Georgetown County has a similar organization, Voices for Children. Both need willing volunteers.

When is the next training class?

I hold training classes throughout the year, and the next class will begin in January. Anyone interested in finding out more about the program can call me in Conway or our office in Georgetown.

To contact Sam, call 843-248-7374. In Georgetown County, call County Coordinator, Amy Stover, at 843-545-1057.

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