Saturday, April 28, 2012
Where is the GPS for Maine GALs?
It is our impression and that of others in the media that the Judicial Branch is driving blind when it comes to modern managerial tools of GAL program oversight. There appear to be no regular statistics coming out of any part of the judicial system that would allow the Judicial Branch to know what is going on at all levels of the system with regard to GALs. There is no data indicating how many of the 328 GALS in Maine are working on cases at any one time, which courts have appointed them, how long they have been on a case, whether there are problems, complaints or complications. Does York have more GALs on the job than, say, Bangor, or Wiscasset? What are the comparative profiles of each district court with regard to GAL usage and GAL complaints or problems? Are particular GALs in the system consistently generating more problems?
Either no one knows, or they're not telling. We strongly suspect that they don't know. Management information is a key part of oversight and management of a GAL program. It leaves the Judicial Branch without the vitally important contemporary information tools used by every business in America, by most governments and by academia.
Guardian ad litem activities ought to be recorded monthly by GAL professionals, in systematic ways, recording of their activities required by statute (a to do list) and checking off point by point mandated requirements to name a few. We are told there is "No money for it" as the reason in Maine for not having management information systems, or "possible violation of confidentiality", or "intrusion into the need to protect judge's impartiality". All of these are issues that can be addressed and dealt with by planner programmers. We have to ask: How do better rated state judicial systems handle this data for program management issues? Can we in Maine borrow ideas (or whole systems) from others? Why are we not actively seeking outside consultation on information systems? Maine, as a small, poor state sometimes seems to fall back on the old Ogden Nash observation, "incest is best", and turn to familiar members of the family for technical help that lacks an objective, arm's length viewpoint. To improve our national report card rating of "F", we don't need participants responsible for the "F" reforming a GAL data program.
We need to escape from a 19th century anecdotal approach in managing 328 GALs in Maine: "It's not that bad..." If there are problems, just wait till they explode, and then deal with them 'ad hoc'. The current handling of Maine's GAL program is akin to driving a car at full speed with windows blackened and no external visibility! More families and children are going to get hurt. An informed public is going to protest these inadequacies with increasing strength and frequency.
At the very least, the Judicial Branch should impose a moratorium on creating new GALs until they have the modern information tools to manage them. To say "It's not that bad" is an unacceptable standard when children and families are involved.