Helping our Community’s Children: The South Carolina Guardian ad Litem Program
Program Coordinator II,
South Carolina Department of Children’s Advocacy
Can you tell us about the Guardian ad Litem program?
The Guardian ad Litem program is a division of the South Carolina Department of Children’s Advocacy. A Guardian ad Litem(GAL) is a volunteer who advocates for the best interest of children in DSS abuse and neglect cases by making monthly face-to-face contact at the foster home or relative’s home, getting to know the child or children and learning what their wishes are. The GAL is the only constant in a child’s life; caseworkers change, foster homes change, teachers and friends change, but the GAL remains the same and becomes that familiar face throughout the whole case.
What are the requirements for becoming a GAL?
You must be able to pass a background check, be at least 21 years of age – and have a deep love for children. All GALs must complete the free 30-hour training.
How much time does it take?
The statewide average is approximately 4-6 hours a month.
What is the length of service with each child?
Do you have more than one at a time?
The length of service varies case by case; we strive for permanency as quickly as possible. GALs are able to choose what cases they take and are able to take more than one case if their time permits. When volunteers are appointed to a case by the Family Court Judge, they serve all of the children in the family.
Who should I contact if I’m interested in volunteering?
If you are interested in becoming a Guardian ad Litem in Horry County you can contact Erin Marshall at 843-347-9750 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in becoming a Guardian ad Litem in Georgetown County, you can contact Christy Vinson at 843-436-7030 or email@example.com.
Horry County Guardian ad Litem
How long have you worked with the program?
I became a GAL in 2019. I was working for WMBF, and they encouraged us to join some type of community outreach or new networking group.
Can you talk about why you chose this type of work?
First, I have two children of my own. And, through Wellspring, our church, I learned how great a need there is for GALs to help children in the system, especially in our area.
What are some of the challenges?
I remember after we finished training being so excited to take my first case, and I actually volunteered for two or three! When I received my first set of paperwork and read some of the horrific abuse this child was enduring I remember sitting in my driveway just sobbing. I couldn’t believe that anyone could treat and abuse children in such a way. It makes you want to just take them all in and save them.
What about this work brings you joy?
These children truly become like family, and they are ecstatic when we visit. It’s a little bright spot in a sometimes very sad and stressful day for these children.
Do you feel your own family ties contributed to your desire to help others?
I never knew anyone close to me who was abused so I wouldn’t necessarily say that is what drew me to this work. Actually in 2008 when I worked for Sasee, Susan Bryant is the first person who told me about the GAL program, and I always knew I wanted to volunteer one day. I think the combination of having my own babies and hearing the need is what pushed me to make the decision to become a GAL.
How do you process the hard cases?
I just try to lean into my faith. I know this isn’t forever, and God has a better plan for these children – hopefully it comes sooner than later.