Originally created 07/23/01

Guardians under fire

A task force making the rounds in South Carolina to discuss domestic court reform heard an earful in Aiken County last week.

The focus of the 40 or so people who showed up at the forum was on the state's guardian programs to benefit children.

There were some complaints about the handling of child abuse cases where a guardian is appointed to advise the presiding judge on facts and nuances. These guardians are volunteers, but they are trained in what they do and their work can be seen and evaluated in court.

That's not true of guardian ad litems, about whom most of the complaints were centered. These are the people named to act in the best interests of children in divorce, child custody and child support cases.

Even though guardian ad litems get paid for their work, they don't have to undergo any training and, according to the parents and grandparents at the Aiken forum, it shows.

All too often their decision-making is slipshod and wrongheaded - going directly against the best interests of the child.

The complainants are calling for legislation to guide and govern the state's guardian ad litems and legal oversight to hold them accountable for their decisions. That's not much to ask. Indeed, it's incongruous this hasn't been done already.

Guardian ad litems could use some training, too. They should be in it for more than just the money.


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