Employment with Voices
STAFF ADVOCATE JOB DESCRIPTION
The Role of a GAL/Staff Advocate
A GAL/Staff Advocate is a trained child advocate sworn in by the court to represent the best interest of children who are abused and neglected and are active cases in the court system. The GAL/Staff Advocate investigates the child’s circumstances, provides fact-based information, and makes recommendations to the court while becoming a source of support for the child.
The GAL/ Staff Advocate serves up to 30 child abuse victims, CHINS (Child In Need of Services) on his/her caseload. This is a full-time 40 hours a week position.
The GAL/CASA program is independent but works closely with the court, social workers, therapists, attorneys, care providers, and other professionals involved in a child’s case. GAL/Staff Advocates work under the direct supervision of the Program Manager to further the child’s welfare and to expedite the case through the system.
The GAL/Staff Advocate’s ultimate goal is to move the child out of temporary placement, usually in the foster care system, into a safe and permanent home. This could mean a return to the parent’s care, adoption, the appointment of a legal guardian, or some other permanent living arrangement that satisfies the court and fulfills the child’s needs.
The Responsibilities of a GAL/Staff Advocate
- Conduct an independent investigation.
- Advocate for the best interest of the child.
- Be a representative for the child.
- Remain actively involved in the case until formally discharged by the court. Once a case terminates and a GAL/Staff Advocate is no longer assigned, all notes and other associated paperwork must be returned to the Voices office immediately.
- Abide by all laws and regulations governing activities; conduct all business honestly, fairly, and professionally.
- Respect the right to privacy when conducting interviews by keeping confidential information that would identify parties involved in GAL/CASA cases.
- Review all relevant documents, including those of DCS, police, court, medical, and school.
- Conduct direct interviews with the child, parents, social workers, relatives, school personnel, and others who know the facts of the situation.
- Maintain complete records on the case, including a log of appointments, interviews, and information gathered about the child, records reviewed, and time spent on the case.
- Report any child abuse or neglect incidents to the Program Manager and the appropriate authorities immediately.
- Determine if a permanent plan has been created for the child and whether “reasonable efforts” were made to provide services to the child and family. Is this plan appropriate and in the best interest of the child?
- Utilize as many factors as possible in making this recommendation, including:
Current age and sense of time
Level of maturity
Culture and ethnicity
Degree of attachment to family members, including siblings
What situation would best provide continuity, consistency, and a sense of
belonging and identity.
- Monitor the case by in-person contact with the child sufficient to have in-depth knowledge and make fact-based recommendations to the court.
- Participate in any planning or treatment team meetings involving the child to keep informed of the child’s permanent plan. Seek cooperative solutions, if possible. Monitor the development and revisions of a case plan, ensuring the inclusion of specific tasks with target dates for completion. Review the service plan with workers and ask questions to ensure the plan is meeting all the child’s needs and may suggest additional services.
- Assure the child’s best interests are represented at every stage of the disposition of the case.
- Attend all court hearings.
- Make a written recommendation to the court on the best decision for the child.
- Urge the court, through written reports, to enter specific and clear orders for evaluation, assessment, services, and treatment for the child and the child’s family.
- Point out concerns about the case to the court.
- Help the child understand the court process.
Conflict of Interest
Staff Advocates shall not be assigned to a case in which the advocate:
- Is related to persons involved in the case.
- Is employed in a position or agency that might result in a conflict of interest.
- Is biased by prior knowledge of circumstances or facts regarding the case or persons involved in the case.
- Would benefit financially from their position or from business done with the GAL/CASA program.
Minimum Qualifications of a GAL/Staff Advocate
- Must be 21 years of age.
- Must successfully pass screening requirements, which include a written application, criminal record and Child Abuse Registry checks, personal interview, and three personal references.
- Must successfully complete 30 hours of initial training provided by the GAL/CASA program.
- Must be sworn in by the Circuit Court Judge.
- Must participate in ongoing training, a minimum of 12 hours annually.
- Must accept supervision and seek feedback from the Program Manager on a regular basis.
- Must be able to keep information confidential and to work within established program guidelines.
- Must report any past, present, or pending criminal charges.
Advocates must respect children’s and families’ rights to privacy in regard to personal information.
- Disclosure or verification of case information shall not be made to anyone who does not have a professional and legal reason for receiving such information.
- No information shall be released to anyone not authorized to receive it, without the express written and dated consent of the party.
- Confidential information shall only be shared with parties to the case.
- Case records and notes shall be secured and kept private and inaccessible to public view.
- Discussions of case-related material are not to be held in hallways, elevators, or other public places.
It is the GAL/Staff Advocate’s job to transmit the information it collects to the court and all parties to the case. It is important to let all parties to a case know this at the beginning of a case.
No one outside of GAL/CASA personnel may have access to a GAL/Staff Advocate’s case record without a court order. Copies of the GAL/Staff Advocate’s Report to Court are provided prior to a court review or hearing to only parties to the case. This would include the DCS caseworker, the attorney, and to parents or their attorneys. Foster parents, service providers, and others affiliated with the case that are not considered as parties in the aforementioned reference are not entitled to copies of the report unless ordered by the court.
Any confidential materials received from another individual or agency may not be disclosed to anyone except the Program Manager, Voices staff as needed, or others by court order or written consent of the party involved.
Duty to Disclose
GAL/Staff Advocates have a duty to immediately disclose information first to Child Protective Services/DCS and then to the Program Manager if new abuse or neglect is suspected.
Guidelines for Contact with Children
- Contact with the children should be in-person and sufficient to have in-depth knowledge of the case and make fact based recommendations to the court. Children shall receive regular visits from their advocate regardless of the age of the child or their placement location (i.e. shelter care, foster care or living with relatives or parents). This should include out of court visits at least once per month with the child.
- Don’t take children home with you. NEVER have a child with you overnight.
- Ask if the children have questions and answer the questions honestly with facts.
- Do not probe or introduce the specifics of abuse. Be especially careful when discussing issues in sexual abuse and other potential criminal cases.
- Explain your role as an advocate in words children can understand. Communicate in a manner appropriate for their age and developmental level.
- Explain to children why they were removed from their home and keep them informed about case events.
- Explain confidentiality. Tell children that you may be asked to tell what they tell you. If they are adolescents, tell them exactly what information you will share.
- Visit the child prior to any hearing that the child will be attending. Explain what is expected to occur and explore the child’s current reactions and feelings regarding the upcoming hearing.
- Reflect children’s feelings without evaluating them and let them know it is okay to have unpleasant or negative feelings.
- Respect children’s attachments to their parents. Remain neutral and non-judgmental about their parents. Do not express your opinion of the parents even if asked.
- Treat children with respect. Don’t talk down to them or criticize them.
- Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Keep the promises you make.
- Tell a child that what happened is not their fault. With older children who have been in therapeutic treatment and/or state care, confirm the need to accept past problems and assume responsibility for their future.
- Prior to confirming with children what you will advocate for, confer with the treatment team (therapist, house parents, shelter or foster parents, social workers, case managers) regarding concerns children express to you and other case matters.
- Know that your case will have a beginning, middle, and an end. Plan on being in the child’s life for only a limited time.