The North Carolina Guardian ad Litem Program – What Is It, and What Does It Do?

Michelle, a white woman with blond hair, wears a blue blouse and is smiling. By Michelle FormyDuval Lynch

The Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights Section of the NCBA includes attorneys and child advocates who are committed to excellence in the direct representation of North Carolina youth. Three of the most common areas of direct representation of children and juveniles in court are child welfare, juvenile delinquency, and family law proceedings. Attorneys with the North Carolina Guardian ad Litem Program (NC GAL Program) represent children in child welfare proceedings in North Carolina district and appellate courts. This article is a short summary of the NC GAL Program, its purpose, duties, and role in that representation.

Guardian vs. Guardian ad Litem vs. NC GAL Program

A guardian of the person is one who generally has the duties of care, control, and custody of their ward. The term “guardian ad litem” comes from the latin phrase “ad litem” which means “for the purposes of the suit.” A guardian ad litem is usually an individual appointed to appear in a lawsuit on behalf of a minor party or incompetent person. While guardians ad litem may be appointed in a variety of civil and criminal proceedings in North Carolina,[1] the NC GAL Program is only appointed to represent children in abuse, neglect, or dependency (“AND”) proceedings, or termination of parental rights (TPR) proceedings under Subchapter I of the NC Juvenile Code. These cases are initiated when a county department of social services files a juvenile petition; they are sometimes referred to as “DSS court,” but a more accurate name is “child welfare court.”

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How to Promote a Positive View of Lawyers and the Legal Profession

Adam a white man with light brown hair, wears a white shirt, red tie with light polka dots, and a white shirt. He is smiling. By Adam G. Linett

Why are lawyers often mocked and despised in the media, and what can we do about it? As professionals, we have spent years studying the law, and we have dedicated our lives and careers to this profession. So while we may take ourselves seriously, sometimes, it is a shock to walk into a courtroom or to face a group of people from the public who view us no differently from the proverbial “snake oil salesman” or as someone out only for ourselves and prepared to pull a fast one.

Admittedly, some members of our profession have broken the law, stretched the rules of ethics, or generally made themselves a nuisance. But we cannot allow these individual examples to define, or to continue to define, us or our profession. Is there anything we can do to raise the public perception of lawyers, defend our profession, and represent our clients effectively at the same time? Let’s consider three goals we can set this year to push back on these common negative impressions.

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BarCARES Seeks Nominations for Board Members

Ann, a white woman with short blond hair, wears a white blouse and teal jacket.By Ann Anderson

Do you care about the mental health of lawyers, law students and paralegals? Would you like to serve on a board that works towards making a variety of mental health services readily available for colleagues? BarCARES does that and is seeking nominations for Board members.

For those who don’t know, BarCARES is designed to offer no-cost assistance in dealing with problems that might be causing distress and can be used to help with such matters as personal issues, anxiety, substance use, financial concerns, family matters, work issues, professional stressors, and provide help with case-related stress as well as student coaching on all matters including time management.

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