As Guardians ad Litem, one of our goals is to connect vulnerable children and families with the services and supports they need. That’s why we pause to remember that September is National Suicide Prevention Month.
What is the Guardian ad Litem Program?
The Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program represents abused, abandoned and neglected children in dependency court. We know that children who experience such trauma are more susceptible to lifetimes of depression. In fact, children and teens in foster care are two and a half times more likely than other youth to seriously consider suicide, and nearly four times more likely to try it.
So suicide prevention is part of GAL’s mandatory training for staff and volunteer advocates. The volunteer’s role is to get to know the child, and visit and support them throughout the case. They provide information and recommendations to judges as part of the GAL multidisciplinary team, which includes a social worker and an attorney working with the volunteer. They are trained to recognize children who are at risk. Knowing how to identify the warning signs and how to help children and teens in crisis can save lives and create new opportunities to help them cope with anxiety and depression.
Another key to children’s recovery from trauma is having a stable, caring adult in their lives. GALs provide at-risk young people with a role model they can trust to act in their best interests. We have seen over and over the difference that a mentor can make in a child’s life.
And for those who require professional counseling or other mental health services, the Guardian ad Litem can be the connection and the guide.
In short, GALs work to give hope to dependent children and identify services that might keep them healthy and safe. Suicide Prevention Month is an excellent reminder that everyone can lend a hand.
Studies show that children with a Guardian ad Litem are more likely to be adopted, half as likely to re-enter foster care and more likely to perform well in school – conditions that almost certainly will improve their mental health. You can help.
To learn more about becoming a Guardian ad Litem volunteer, please call 1-866-341-1425 or visit www.galpbc.org for your local GAL program. If you are feeling overwhelmed, call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text 741-741 to contact a free, trained crisis counselor.
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