Aiken County Council has proclaimed today, the last Sunday in January, as Aiken County Volunteer Guardian ad Litem Awareness Day.
The volunteers are to be commended for their selfless and tireless work. During the holidays, we all want to help children, but the serious needs of abused and neglected children continue throughout the year.
Imagine police taking you from your home in the middle of the night and you are not able to pack any of your clothes. Then you are left in a strange place where you must become accustomed to a bed in a new room. You are given food from people you do not know and you must adapt to different rules.
Now, imagine you are only 6 and the reason you had to leave your home is that your parents have been beating you and each other.
Children caught in the world of child abuse or child neglect are often victimized twice.
First, they are hurt by their abusers and then they suffer again because they must be removed from their familiar surroundings.
Child abuse knows no boundaries of race, religion or social standing. It is a fact of life - one we must do our best to stop.
Agencies that work to prevent child abuse and to help victims of abuse and neglect rely on volunteer support.
When the Department of Social Services cannot come to an agreement with the family and feels the child is in danger, the state presents the case to the Family Court.
Family Court judges have to make tough decisions concerning abused and neglected children, including whether to take them from their homes.
In order to determine the least detrimental alternative, judges need objective information. Normally, parents are their children's best advocates. But the court must intervene when parents cannot or will not protect, promote and provide for their children's basic needs.
A guardian ad litem volunteer becomes the advocate when the parents cannot or will not fulfill this role.
Guardian ad litems come from all backgrounds and many have full-time jobs. They are our neighbors.
Their priority is the child. A guardian ad litem listens to the child's needs, wishes and worries, then does what is necessary to ensure the best possible action is taken.
For more information, call (803) 648-9919.
Pamela Jung is the public relations coordinator for the Aiken County Volunteer Guardian ad Litem program.