The Dearborn-Ohio County Child Advocate program is made up of trained community volunteers who are appointed to speak for the best interests of a neglected or abused child.
The purpose of the child advocate (also known as a guardian ad litem or GAL) is to conduct an independent investigation of the child's situation. This includes interviews with all involved persons and a review of all legal and Department of Children Services (DCS) records. The advocate (GAL) will develop and present to the court recommendations which serve the child's best interest. The advocate appears at all court hearings for the child and participates in other conferences concerning the child. Some of the meetings attended can include case planning, review conferences, school conferences, family team meetings and mental health assessment conferences. The advocate does NOT provide direct professional services to the child, nor does the advocate take the place of the DCS caseworker or other professional involved in the case.
The advocate serves as:
INVESTIGATOR - determines all relevant facts through personal interviews, review of records, other documentation and clinical data.
ADVOCATE - prevents the relevant facts before the court hearings through written reports and direct testimony.
FACILITATOR- presents the relevant facts before the court hearings through written reports and direct testimony. - prevents the relevant facts before the court hearings through written reports and direct testimony.
The advocate is the eyes and ears of the court. Judges rely heavily on the advocates independent assessment and recommendations. However, since the advocate is only one of several parties making recommendations to the court, the court may or may not accept the advocate's recommendations. The court may incorporate a portion of the advocate's recommendation into the final decision.