The Volunteer Guardian ad Litem (VGAL) program of Snohomish County is seeking adults, 21 years and older, to serve as advocates for children who have been removed from their homes due to alleged abuse, neglect or abandonment. Qualified individuals from all walks of life, cultures, backgrounds and ethnicities are encouraged to submit an application and begin the interviewing process for the next training scheduled for July 18, 20, and 22, 2015.
VGALs are members of the community who receive extensive education and training in order to advocate for abused and neglected children — who through no fault of their own — are thrust into juvenile dependency court and often, into foster care. VGALs watch over and advocate for the best interests of the children they represent and serve as the eyes and ears of the Court. They conduct independent investigations, often interviewing multiple people and visiting the children frequently. The VGAL’s ultimate responsibility is to promote safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible.
“Volunteers learn the skills needed to become a strong voice for a child during the 32-hour intensive training course that is completed over three days,” said Kristine Morse, interim community services supervisor for Snohomish County Superior Court. “The training teaches future advocates what they should expect to encounter once they are appointed to a case, how to put together a full picture of the child’s situation and how to navigate the court process. With the knowledge gained during training, coupled by support received by VGAL Program Coordinators, volunteers can advocate for the best possible future for a child.”
Qualified individuals need to pledge to stay on a case from start to finish. A case can take anywhere from six to 18 months, or longer; depending on its complexity, and requires on average a commitment of 15 volunteer hours per month.
Currently, 1,300 abused and neglected children are in foster care throughout Snohomish County. While many of these children are represented in court by a VGAL, over 400 children are still waiting for an advocate. “We believe many more community residents will step forward to advocate for these children if they know of the need,” Morse said. “Statistics show that two out of every three abused and neglected children are waiting for a GAL volunteer to be by their side. It is our hope to recruit more GAL volunteers to help advocate for every child.”
If you are interested in becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate with the Snohomish County VGAL Team, call 425-388-7854 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
You can find the VGAL Application here.