The 30-hour training program focuses on the family court system, how to recognize abuse and neglect, and how to communicate with children and others involved in the case. The first class begins on Monday, Jan. 17 at 6 p.m. and will be held at Mon-Aetna Baptist Church on Lockhart Highway.
The Union County Guardian ad Litem program first opened its doors on June 17, 2010. Before then the majority of volunteers serving Union County children came from York County.
"There's a need here in Union County," said Robert Hill, a volunteer who was part of the first training class in Union County. "We have ex-teachers and other people around here that could really make a difference and do good. I would love to see them part of the program."
A child advocate, or Guardian ad Litem as it is called in South Carolina, is trained to become the voice of a child in court. The program pairs the trained GAL with children involved in neglect and abuse cases in order to give family court judges a more complete picture of the children's needs.
All volunteers must be at least 21 and pass a background and Central Registry check before they can take a case. Each case takes a commitment of about four to six hours per month, but program organizers say volunteers are often the only source of stability for children who regularly move to different foster homes, transfer to new schools, change case workers and often lose contact with friends and extended family members.
The Union County Guardian ad Litem Program is a division of the S.C. Governor's Office of Executive Policy and Programs. For more information, call Stephanie Kitchens at (864) 427-1984 or visit www.Union.scgal.org.