OK, straight up, that might be one of my all time favorite blog post titles. My favorite ones are the ones that don’t make sense to most people but have a certain Easter egg quality about them. But back to my point…
I got an email from an IHOP staffer a few days ago regarding a program in Austin, Texas that uses volunteers to serve as guardian ad litem to children at risk.
For those who (like myself) passed up Latin class for a second year of Vocational Agriculture, a guardian ad litem is a person appointed by the court to look out for the best interests of the child during the course of legal proceedings. They’re not necessarily a lawyer (but they can be). They’re not a social worker. They’re simply someone who – with the legal invitation of the system – argues within the system for the good of the child.
County social workers nationwide are an overworked lot. They often handle far more cases than they can properly manage. Understand, they’re doing their best – but there are only so many hours in the day and the need outstrips the availability to the point where social workers sometimes represent children in family court having only a cursory knowledge of the situation.
These volunteer programs train individuals to interact with the family and spend time with the children. They get to know the nuances of the family, the history that won’t fit on a government form and the stories that won’t be told sitting at a sterile government issue metal desk.
I know what you’re thinking – “Oh, like a Big Brother, Big Sister program.” Uh, yes, but on steroids….because when this child’s future is on the line, when the Big Brother, Big Sister program fades into the background, the guardian ad litem goes to court. They advocate for the child, giving recommendations that carry real weight in court. In the most real picture I can imagine, they are intercessors before a judge on behalf of children.
Your county may have a program like this. Ours does. Jackson County, Missouri’s CASA program (Court Appointed Special Advocates) served over 700 children last year. I spent yesterday reading most of their 280 page training manual. I knew I was in deep stuff when reading the fictional examples brought me to tears.
In an example in the manual, interviews are done of a mother, her three children, and their two fathers. They’re written from the perspective of the individuals, so rather than “The mom left the kids at home….”, you read her side of the story….how she went to buy baby formula, got sidetracked and bought liquor, then didn’t have enough money for the formula.
When she shoplifted the formula, she was arrested. Her children were at home waiting but she was afraid to tell anyone. You also hear it from her 14 and 9 year old boys. These are the children who will be represented solely by an overworked social worker unless volunteers step in to hear their story and serve as their voice.
This sort of story is true of more children than you or I can imagine – and here is a program that allows us to argue on their behalf before a judge. You’ve got to admit, it’s got a certain Luke 18 quality about it.
It’s fantastic that Jackson County mustered advocates for 700 needy children last year. It’s tragic that there are over 2100 children who needed advocates. Their goal is to serve half the kids in the county this year.
Surely we can intercede on these kids’ behalf. Go to jacksoncountycasa-mo.org to learn more.
“…And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
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