BENNINGTON -- The program that pairs advocates with young people involved in the court system has been awarded a $30,000 grant to secure new volunteers.
Mary Hayden, statewide coordinator for the Guardian ad Litem program, said there are about 280 guardian ad litem (GAL) volunteers in Vermont and roughly 1,000 children involved in the Family Court units.
The grant is from the National Court Appointed Special Advocates Association. It was awarded to the Vermont Judiciary Oct. 1 and will be used over the course of the fiscal year. Hayden said it will pay for advertisements and training.
GAL coordinator for Bennington County, Anthony Krulikowski, said the program periodically gets grants to drum up and train new volunteers, however word of mouth seems to be how most find their way into the program.
He said GALs are advocates for children and vulnerable adults who find themselves in the court system. They are not attorneys, do not give legal advice or advice, nor do their guardianship responsibilities extend beyond the court.
Krulikowski said to volunteer one must fill out an application which can be obtained at the State Office Complex on North Street or by going to www.vermontjudiciary.org, clicking under the "Family Court" menu then clicking the GAL link. Krulikowski said he is also happy to speak to people via phone at 802-447-6580.
The local GAL program has enough volunteers, he said, but more are always needed. He said a handful are expected to leave within the next few months and he plans to have more trained.
Training concludes with a brief "shadowing" period, then volunteers can take on a case, or multiple cases if they feel up to it. He said a single case can take up two to three hours per month.
-- Keith Whitcomb Jr.