If one of us was driving down one of our country roads and saw a small child drowning in a farm pond, even if we were going to a very important meeting and we were wearing our very best shoes or suit, not one of us would hesitate to stop and try to help that drowning child. Even if it meant we’d miss our meeting and ruin our best clothes. Well, there are hundreds of children out there that are experiencing life nearly as terrifying as that child in the pond. Many of them right here in Yadkin County.
Now, I want each one of you to think about this carefully — are we any less responsible for children in peril because we don’t see them? Because we don’t personally witness their distress, are we less accountable? I became a Guardian ad Litem volunteer because I wanted to help protect a few of these children.
A Guardian ad Litem is a court-appointed children’s advocate. We are an additional set of eyes on the child. When a child is removed from the home and put into the care of the Department of Social Services because the parents have failed to properly care and protect the child, a GAL (Guardian ad Litem) is appointed for that child. The GAL visits these children to make sure they are OK. We report facts we’ve gleaned about the child’s environment to the judge to help the court decide a safe and permanent placement for the child.
Often children can go back home with one or both parents who have demonstrated a renewed ability to properly care for the child. Or, in more extreme cases, the GAL will support family members or an adoptive home that can love and care for the child. We work closely with dedicated Social Services case workers, but independently. I’ve been involved with volunteer work for several nonprofits and a lot of my life has revolved around children. I am a father of two and grandfather of six. I’ve been a professional children’s photographer. I’ve photographed abandoned children in Africa, helping raise money to support those children. I’ve also worked to protect the environment for our grandchildren, so they will have clean air and water.
Many of these worthy causes I’ve volunteered for are things with distant and abstract results. They were worthy of my time and energy, but I wanted to do hands-on work, right here in my neighborhood where the results are local and the feedback is immediate. Children are the most vulnerable segment of our society and I wanted to do something to help keep them safe. When a case is resolved, I’m confident that a child right here in Yadkin County has a better chance at the normal, safe, and healthy existence that every child deserves. This is the GAL’s objective.
About the work itself, there are times when you will experience the darker side of humanity — the sad parents that either cannot or will not properly care for their children. At these times, each of these neglected or abused children deserves an adult, like you and me, who will stand up for them in court when their parents or caregivers cannot.
You will also experience the best side of humanity; you will meet heroes, fellow Yadkin County residents that always put children before themselves. Folks like Department of Social Services case workers, foster parents, loving grandparents and other volunteers. I have many times been humbled by the huge hearts of foster parents, adoptive parents, and other GAL volunteers. These people have hearts so big that I feel lucky to be in the same room with them. Children they champion are forever changed in wondrous ways.
If, like me, you’ve experienced a desire to be needed — or you want to do “your” share — or you want to make an “impact,” you want to stand up and be “counted,” you want to know your life has “mattered.” There are few better feelings than seeing a once-neglected child finally get the love and caring home that all children deserve. This experience is beyond description, come and join us for experiences you’ll never forget. Questions? Contact Cathy Davidson at 336-849-7409 or [email protected]
Rod Hunter lives in East Bend and is an avid hiker, biker, photographer and nature lover. He is the past state chairman of the Sierra Club of NC. He volunteers as a court appointed children’s advocate for children in foster care and with Cancer Services Inc. He is a two-time cancer survivor. He has backpacked in Alaska, Arizona, California, Utah, Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Georgia, Virginia, and of course North Carolina.