Across South Carolina, there is a shortage of men advocating for children in court. Cass Elias McCarter Guardian ad Litem program organizers are challenging men to volunteer and take charge against child abuse.
In 2011, about 2,500 South Carolina citizens served as volunteer guardians ad litem. Of those, only 20 percent were men, while half of all children who need a guardian are male. In Union County, 27 percent of volunteers were men.
“This is not just a women’s program,” said Barbara Darley, state director of the program. “A guardian ad litem is a powerful role. Boys and young men in foster care need to see men taking charge of the welfare of their community.”
A guardian ad litem is a volunteer trained to advocate for a child. After a volunteer is trained, the program links them with a child involved in a neglect or abuse case. The volunteer independently investigates a case and makes recommendations that give family court judges a more complete picture of the children’s needs. The volunteer stays with the child throughout the case, making sure their voice is being heard.
“Men are natural protectors and good problem-solvers. That is a powerful combination in child advocacy,” said Darley.
Volunteers spend an average of 5 hours each month working on a case, which includes visiting the child and other activities like attending court hearings. Volunteers say small gestures are enough to make a huge difference in a child’s life.
“A lot of people don’t want to have to spend their time,” said Robert Hill, a Union County volunteer. “But we have people around here that could really make a difference and do good. There’s a need here in Union County.”
Program organizers encourage anyone with an interest in children’s issues — both men and women — to sign up. For more information about becoming a volunteer, visit Union.scgal.org or call 427-1984.
The Cass Elias McCarter Guardian ad Litem Program is a division of the S.C. Governor’s Office of Executive Policy and Programs and a member of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association.