Thursday, April 5, 2012

An inexpensive way to GAL reform

Part of the problem with Guardian ad litem reform has been the cost. In a 2008 report it was suggested that a $500,000 budget would settle most if not all of the issues on reform and oversight. Because of State budget restraints this was just not going to happen.

Fast forward to 2012 and a concerned group of citizens who are trying once again to push through reform of the Guardian ad litem system. Cost, like back in 2008 are still an issue. Throwing money at the problem may fix it - yet, there are low cost or even no cost solutions. For instance making ex parte (or off the record conversation - between a judge and GAL for instance) forbidden. This type of conversation is not neutral as the GAL is able to influence the Judge one way or another. Keeping all parties appraised of what is going on keeps drama to a minimum. Everyone is on the same page so to speak.

Another simple and easy way to assure a measure of oversight is to make all GAL records transparent and open. The emails we have received from people through out the state is that there is a high level of frustration in understanding what exactly the GAL is doing. When told that records are sealed in the best interest of the child it makes for a maddening situation. It eliminates any checks and balances and sets up a scenario for potential abuse by the GAL (whether intentional or not).

Will a program that costs the state $500,000 help provide oversight to the GAL program in the state of Maine. It certainly will. Then one begs to question whether or not Maine really needs a Cadillac program to solve the problem in these tough economic times. Or with a little creative thinking the state could get away with something less expensive. If the idea is to be able to get from point A to point B then a low cost solution can fit the bill. Change is coming.


  1. Why have these ideas not come up before?

  2. The Maine Guardian ad litem Institute likes things as they are. Their proposals for reform in 2008 were to wrap "rogue" GALs in cotton wool, to rehabilitate rather than reform. "Rogue" GALs create huge harm for children and families. Should they be pampered or thrown out?

  3. The Judicial Branch 2008 plan for GAL reform was crafted with the input of 7 GALs plus others. In reading it, one can see the heavy influence of MEGALI, the Maine Guardian ad litem Institute. This "special interest" wasn't balanced by other "interests", say, "consumers. So, in our opinion, it largely "put the fox in charge of the hen house"! Foxes are to be treated lightly in this failed proposal.

    But "rehabilitation" of "rogue" GALs evades the issue of harm done by a "rogue" GAL to children and families. It is like the financial industry that wants a thick buffer of mediation with aggrieved clients before going to court for damages. It prolongs the process. It wears out complainants. It is in their "special interest".

    Watch MEGALI try to co-opt GAL reform. Watch for how many MEGALI board members sit on the Chief Justices' planning committee for reform this Summer. Watch for the unlikely presence of "consumers" on this committee. We fear that it may be another "Fox" dominated effort, as the "hens" are ignored!

    At the moment, the Judicial Branch is inviting the public to participate in public testimonials on May 31st, which is OK, but ... the GAL reform plans "good stuff" is apt to come out of private planning sessions, away from the public!

    1. I believe that the Maine Judiciary GAL conference is on May 3 and 4 at the Sable Oaks Marriott in South Portland. This is open only to GALs and attorneys...sounds like private planning sessions to me! Their very non-specific agenda is on

  4. I never knew that I could look at the records the GAL had. I was in constant conflict with the GAL because he never let me know what was going on. When something did happen and he was questioned he evaded and talked around what I was asking. Getting a clear response from my GAL was next to impossible.