Wednesday, May 30, 2012

From the Portland Press Herald May 30, 2012

Our View: Court holding hearing on guardian ad litem reform

There are enough complaints to warrant a review of this vital child welfare program.

 The toughest legal cases are family cases heard in district courts across Maine. Behind closed doors, decisions that profoundly affect children and their parents are decided, and at least one party is sure to walk away unhappy.

This week, the guardian ad litem program will be the subject of a rare public hearing before Maine's Chief Justice Leigh Ingalls Saufley.

We encourage anyone to attend this meeting to share your views and thoughts on this topic. You do not have to make a statement.  This is an important meeting regarding guardian ad litem reform and we need your support. 

Location:  Maine Supreme Judicial Court 205 Newbury Street, Portland, ME 

Phone for more information: (207) 822-4146

   Date     May 31, 2012
   Time     4:00 PM

The court is scheduling a meeting for Thursday, May 31 at 4 pm in the Cumberland County Courthouse to hear from interested parties and the public.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

In Today’s Custody World, Good is Bad and Bad is Good.

In today’s society with all its ‘politically correct’ double talk, we are supposed to be accepting of a persons issues with addiction whether that is with drugs, (prescription or otherwise) or alcohol. We are also, as a compassionate society, supposed to help others with their struggles with mental illness. In most aspects of life, we would agree. We certainly believe helping those who have addictions and or mental illness recover, benefits the person who has these issues and society as a whole.

The line gets a bit blurred when it comes to child custody.

What we are seeing more and more is that  parents who have a past of prescription drug abuse and/or alcohol abuse, mental illness and/or arrests have managed to get primary custody of the child or children. The other parent in many of these cases have none of these issues. They have no criminal history, are employed and have family support. But the new standard in today’s ‘politically correct’ world is that the parent with prior or existing drug addiction, alcohol abuse and/or mental illness get primary custody, thanks to guardian ad litems who ‘feel’ that this is ‘in the best interest of the child.’

The other parent, if they protest the choice presented to the court by the guardian ad litem and speak with fervor and passion that this should not happen is often times labeled as having ‘anger issues’ or ‘being difficult’. Many times that parent is ordered to get a psychological examination for the perceived ‘anger issue’ and no such request is being made to the addicted parent.
Good is bad and bad is good in this touchy feely world of pop psychology. The new standard should be ” for the safety of the child”, ”In the best interest of the child” is vague and subjective and there is no standard.

If you find yourself in a custody dispute with a GAL being assigned, ask questions, keep good detailed records, record your conversations, do research and if you disagree with your guardian ad litem, speak up! The time for change is now. We need you at the guardian ad litem reform hearing at the Maine Supreme Judicial Court 205 Newbury Street, Portland, ME Phone for more information: (207) 822-4146  May 31, 2012. Please contact us at or on our Facebook page Megalalert.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tracing the Foundations of the Best Interests of the Child

Comments from the front line. In response to several supportive comments from our readers on "the best interest of the child"

If one wants to understand the idea behind the term "best interests of the child" an article by Lynne Marie Kohm does an excellent job in laying the foundation of where and how the concept came about. It has a long history going back to ancient times and how children have been viewed by the family and society.

The modern concept of "the best interest of the child" has its roots in Colonial America and England. The foundations that were laid out back then dealt with many of the same issues confronting todays parents and court system. This would include Rights to custody and visitation and developed indirectly rather than through legal contests.

Although "the best interest of the child" is the gold standard with over 200 years of history behind it the concept is open for abuse. The Nazi party was probably the first to execute the concept of what the state considered was in the best interest of the child. It is true they were not the first to come up with the term. They were the first state organization though to implement the idea of what is in "the best interest of the child" and apply it on a mass scale.

The term itself is one that is abstract and applied as fact in the court room setting by GALs. It is meaningless and is often used as a shield by GALs and Child protective services. In the end who really can determine what is in the best interest of the child? A state sponsored organization that tries to apply a formula to what is deemed in the best interest? Or the child's parents and family?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

“In the best interest of the child” – Do you know what this means…?

It was an SS Nazi slogan, now used by today’s family courts to determine custody:

It is also… the prime directive of all Child Protection Services.

“Justice denied anywhere, diminishes justice everywhere.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

There is an undeniable correlation between the above-mentioned and today’s Child Protection Service system which we have found to have it’s origins partly traced back to the Nazi Lebensborn project.
A substantial number of children were also taken away from their German parents by a form of social services to be placed in the Lebensborn program for the sake and security of the “fatherland” and “in the best interest of the child”

“In the best interest of the child” is also a favorite line, perpetually quoted by today’s Social Workers, Child Protection Services and Family Court Judges to denote a perceived authority and perceived expertise over the family unit. However, they are only invoking an ambiguous term without any clear definition to obtain a winning condition, under the color of law.

Decades of unqualified, unmonitored and regressive (rather than progressive) interpretation by untrained judges, social workers and guardian ad litems in secret family courts have effectively stamped out individual rights. The phrase has become a slogan to hide behind for family law professionals. The perverse directions issued in family courts seem to be getting worse; just like Hitler’s henchmen, it’s as if judges and family law professionals are trying to outdo each other in the scale of their human rights abuses and decide what rights a parent (and in some instances, grandparents) should have in the life of their child.

The Experts’ Views:

- Judge Watson L. White
Superior Court Judge, Cobb County, Georgia:
‘There is something bad happening to our children in family courts today that is causing them more harm than drugs, more harm than crime and even more harm than child molestation.”

- Judge Brian Lindsay
Retired Supreme Court Judge,
New York, New York:
‘There is no system ever devised by mankind that is guaranteed to rip husband and wife or father, mother and child apart so bitterly than our present Family Court System.”

- Bro Will Gaston:
‘Best interest of Children’ doesn’t love and care for children. It’s about the industry collecting the money.”

Robert H.Mnookin, Child-Custody Adjudication: Judicial Functions in the Face of Indeterminacy, 39 Law & Contemp. Probs.,
The best interests test has long been the subject of academic as well as judicial criticism for being indeterminate, providing little guidance on how to weigh the different needs of individual children, especially as they change over time”

- Hillary Rodham Clinton, Children Under the Law, 43 Harv. Ed. Rev. 487, 513 .
“Best interests operates as an empty vessel into which adult perceptions and prejudices are poured.”

- Oliver Cyriax, 1998, INPOWw and NATC
The term the ‘best interests of the child’ is no more than a label affixed to the case retrospectively, irrespective of current research, irrespective of best opinion, irrespective of the facts of the case, irrespective of governing principles, irrespective of the merits of the case and irrespective of the outcome. This is an inevitability; all decisions (whatever they are) must by definition be in the best interests of the child since otherwise they would contravene the law. The definition of ‘the best interests of the child’ is whatever decision the Court reached.

The Nazi roots of “in the best interests of the child”. Oliver Cyriax, NATC and INPOWw:
“The best interests of the child”
It is a sad fact that the term ‘the best interests of the child’ has yet to receive a preliminary definition. This means that the primary criterion of these cases is not a criterion but an infinitely amorphous variable (affixed to the decision by way of subsequent justification).
In the sluggish intellectual waters of the Family Division, no thought has yet been given to whether a child’s benefit would be better advanced:
a) by a system that allowed the resident parent to deprive a child of material contact with a non-resident parent (or ‘father’) for good reason
b) by a system which allows the resident parent to deprive a child of all or all material contact with a non-resident parent for no or no material reason.
Since these two ‘models’ give rise to different outcomes (children with two parents or children with one parent; parents with children or parents without children) on a wide scale, the oversight is odd.
Further, since the two definitions are opposite to one another in one of the most important matters concerning children (should they be raised as quasi-orphans?) then if one model is represents working towards the ‘benefit’ of the child’, the other represents working towards his detriment .

Charles Pragnell, 25 Aug 2011:
(Charles Pragnell is an independent social care management consultant, a Child/Family Advocate, and an Expert Defence Witness – Child Protection, and has given evidence to Courts in cases in England, Scotland, and New Zealand).
“That is because we still adhere to this term “In the best interests of the child”, which was first coined by the German government in the 1940s as a euphemism to justify and excuse their maltreatment of children. The term has no universally and commonly agreed criteria and is extremely highly subjective, and completely dependent on the beliefs, values, and attitudes of the adult making such a decision. It is their personal beliefs, values, and attitudes which drive social workers in their decision-making regarding the competence or otherwise of parents to care for their children, and the process becomes a matter of persuading the Courts that their beliefs, values, and attitudes are correct.
 The children become merely a secondary party to this process. The quality of parenting of children can only be evaluated by very careful and objective observation and study of how parents meet their children’s physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual needs and any determinations regarding a child must be demonstrably and measurably to the benefit of the child.

Here at Megalalert, we and our many supporters are not saying that the Family Court System in the state of Maine and many other states can be compared to the ways of the Nazi’s or to Hitler’s regime. We are just pointing out where the phrase “In the Best Interest of the Child” came from and strongly recommending that there be a change!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Report on GAL reform and oversight in Maine

The Bad Sports Report

For the full report that can be downloaded and saved. Please note that unless the file is saved the internal links do not appear to work. Please feel free to pass this document along to others that may be interested.

We hope that badly needed change to GAL oversight will come about as a result of the concerns addressed in the report. It is a crime that the Judicial Branch has let the issue of oversight and accountability be ignored for so long. From our research there has been a recognized need for some kind of GAL management since 1995. 17 years is a long time to wait and allow for damage to Maine families.

If you have been experiencing issues in Family Court or with a Guardian ad litem please contact us at or find us on Facebook.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Guardian ad litem system long overdue for reform

The Maine Guardian ad Litem Institute is the trade organization for guardians ad litem. The institute and its president, Toby Hollander, provide continuing education for the group's members and lobby to improve the lot of guardians ad litem by influencing government decisions.

Guardians ad litem are well placed within Maine's government, and it is surprising that, in spite of this, they have made no moves for guardian ad litem reform.

Two joint standing committees of the Legislature (Government Oversight and Judiciary), the chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability have all stated that there is a significant guardian ad litem oversight problem.

In addition, there are the complaints about guardians ad litem from numerous private citizens, including some Maine legislators. There is now a significant call to action from high places in Maine. Will the institute and Toby Hollander be a part of this call? Trying to influence direction as before?

Where will the consumers be? Let's hope that there is a place for them at the table when guardian ad litem reform is planned.

Creating a well-balanced committee on guardian ad litem oversight will lead to better rules and standards for those who are a part of and use the service.

Consumer protection for children and families from rogue guardians ad litem is desperately needed in Maine today. Maine has an opportunity to create and set the standard for this vital service.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Who is watching our GALs?

In our opinion, Maine Guardian ad Litem Institute and others who consider GAL supervision, seem to have totally overlooked the complex goals, legal boundaries, chain of command, risks and authority issues that pervade any grounded concept of GAL supervision. Anyone proposing supervision designs - of any sort -  must think through the snags and pitfalls that may not be apparent at first.  As but one example, it appears to us that Maine Guardian ad Litem Institute's present, existing concept of group supervision of GAL's cases has not been carefully analyzed in terms of the multiple systems issues that are apt to challenge it.  In our view, among other considerations, it quite possibly may be in violation of the laws of confidentiality.

GAL supervision is a  very complicated issue.  Conceptually, one is looking at the idea of supervising "an officer of the court" who is appointed - not employed -  by the court,  whose fees come from consumers who are adversaries of each other, and who may themselves in the end be adversaries of the GAL.  Then, there is the child who is supposed to be the GAL's primary client and, finally, there is the judge.  Who precisely is the GAL working for?

Because GALs are created by the Judicial Branch of Maine government, and  since they are appointed by a district court and work under court orders, they are working for Maine's public court system.  And ... under what authority would the supervision of a court officer derive?  There appears to be nothing in the statutes that defines the roles and responsibilities of a GAL supervisor in any type of what might be called broadly supervisory activities.  Can non-governmental outsiders (like Maine Guardian ad Litem Institute) empower themselves - just by say - so - to supervise public officials of the Judicial system, such as judges, clerks or GALs?  By what process of legitimation?   Wouldn't a GAL supervisor also need to be created by the Judicial Branch and appointed by courts to supervise every GAL?  What would be the goals of GAL supervision: a focus on how a GAL fulfills statutory role requirements, a focus on handling clients, a focus on dealing with the courts? How would such a supervisor evaluate the GAL's handling of each of these separate  relationships?  What would be the chain of command for a supervisor?   To whom would a supervisor report, what would they required to report, and what supervisory standards would they observe?  Who would evaluate the supervisors, what would they evaluate and how would they do it?

Just declaring that you are a supervisor of a court appointee, a GAL or whomever, doesn't make it legitimate.  It is ungrounded, unclear in terms of its legitimating auspices, lacks a basis in law and it raises a slew of subsequent questions.  Or ... otherwise, anyone could simply declare themselves the "supervisor" of, say,  the Chief Justice - out of thin air, because of some shared common interest.  Obviously, such a claim would be totally presumptuous or misguided.

There are a number of other serious questions about this complex, potentially conflicted set of supervisory relationships that at present seem to go unexamined and unanswered.  Most importantly, who owns the highly sensitive, private  information about the family - the object of supervision, and who can give permission for a GAL to share it with a GAL supervisor (without legal standing), who is unknown to the parties? The court, the GAL, the clients, the child?  What happens to any idea of confidentiality in this supervision?  What is the liability of a potential GAL supervisor, if there are complaints of malpractice about a GAL?  Is a putative GAL supervisor responsible for reporting supervisee malpractice to the authorities?  Can they be subpoenaed in court cases?    Are GAL supervisors in a position similar to Catholic bishops in cases of clergy abuse?  Would a supervisor share the legal immunity claimed by a GAL, where would it come from and what would be its extent?  Would malpractice insurance cover GAL supervisors; would they be required to have it?  Can a supervisor who is also, say, a lawyer, an advocate, a lobbyist and a promoter of the GAL industry, also provide objective supervision on work quality of a colleague, who is a partner in these other activities?  Isn't there an inherent conflict in these roles, and isn't it likely to occur?   We feel that there would be a lot of built - in role conflict, and we doubt that any putative GAL supervisor would willingly "rat on a professional buddy" with whom they work closely in other activities - educational, political to name a few.

It is our sense that there have been attempts in the past - made without analysis of the complexities of the systems involved to graft a social work conceptual model of supervision onto the role of a GAL,  someone who works under the auspices of a regulated public, legal system and there is no basis for that sort of graft to take on a foreign system, and ... beaucoup problems.

 The issue of GAL supervision is a good example of how attempts to solve a problem with insufficient analysis and insufficient input from other perspectives might actually make the problem worse!  There is a need for outside consultation and consumer input on the issue of GAL supervision!

In the best interest of Maine's children!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Convenient Cloak of Confidentiality.

The story of Ethan Henderson, the 2 1/2 month infant killed by his father is a tragic, brutal story and is understandably taking Maine readers by storm. The story puts the question front and center: “Are systems that are supposed to be protecting children working the way they should?” Why wasn’t this case put on some kind of “watch” or other intervention when it surfaced several weeks before the child was abused? Why did we allow the murder of this obviously high risk child?

When DHHS is questioned about specifics pertaining to the precautions taken after the child suffered a broken arm and the sister showed signs of abuse, they clam up claiming confidentiality ‘in the best interest of the child’ That is exactly what the Guardian ad litems are able to do when questioned about their communication, reporting and their billing.

At Maine Guardian ad litem Alert (megalalert), we have also experienced a system that fails to truly make “the best interests of the child” central, often neglecting the child’s safety and failing to make child safety a central focus.  Though “lip service” is given, GAL investigations, as noted by Maine’s Chief Justice, frequently fail to follow mandatory regulatory statutes. They also fail to follow up on hard evidence of abuse/neglect and rely heavily on hearsay of parents, rather than primary data. As with DHHS, they tend to move with glacial slowness.

For consumer complaints about GAL’s malfunctioning, the complaint process is lengthy, legalistic, expensive and unresponsive.  It seems unable to respond quickly to pressing concerns about child health and child safety. Maine’s Chief Justice has indicated to the legislature that the Guardian ad litem system here in Maine has NO oversight. She is holding a hearing on this topic in Portland on May 31st at 4 pm. There is a stated aim to reform the system.  We feel strongly that Maine needs a fresh outside look at serious problems of oversight of child safety that have been amply documented several times, but with no action beyond documentation. Outside consultation would seem in order. And … a commitment to corrective action! It is time for Maine to take a look at the handling of “children at risk” in all systems and to take action. The Washington, DC child advocacy organization, “First Star”, gave Maine an “F” for the 3 report cards on their website (their lowest grade) when they rated and gave out report cards to every state on how they protect children and their rights.  Many of us think that Maine’s grade of “F” was generous!

For more information about First Star’s report card follow this link:

First Star – Report Cards

The latest report card “A Child’s Right to Counsel – 3rd Edition” can be found here.
You can read more on our blog with Bangor Daily News - and Justice for all or you can email us at

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Would you hand over $2500 to a stranger?

What do you know about your Guardian ad litem?

A Guardian a litem has been appointed to be a part of your custody case. Here is a stranger that is invading your life in the name of your child's best interest. This person is going to be making life altering decisions and recommendations to the court that will impact your life and that of your child for years to come.

What can you find out in Maine about this person's background and professional standing as a GAL?


You have to accept on faith that this person is going to perform their job  as a GAL competently. You are going into this deal blind, because in Maine there is not currently any form of oversight, accountability or consumer protection when using a GAL's service.

One simple and effective measure of GAL quality and accountability would be for the Judicial branch to post online, any complaint or action against a GAL. This might be for something as mundane as not fulfilling the continuing education hours, to more serious complaints on the family and superior court levels.

New Hampshire is one state that does this. New Hampshire also lists on the court's rosters whether or not a GAL is under suspension. Although this approach is not perfect it does allow the consumer to know whether or not there have been past actions against  a GAL and for what reason. It allows the consumer to decide whether or not being late on continuing education is a deal breaker for example. Or if there are other reasons or actions that might make you question whether or not this GAL will be a good fit. It gives the consumer the ability to make choices and to do so from an informed perspective.

There is no consumer protection for the user of GAL services in Maine. There is plenty of legal liability protection for the GALs themselves who operate in a very protected legal environment. The Judicial branch needs to be using some standard data management tool for holding GALs accountable by giving consumers online warning signals about a GALs past performance. Making their past record transparent and public is one way of doing this.

Otherwise - with no public information - the Judicial branch risks marketing a defective or substandard product to the public - Again.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May 31, 2012 hearing on GAL reform

Location:  Maine Supreme Judicial Court 205 Newbury Street, Portland, ME  


Phone for more information: (207) 822-4146

   Date     May 31, 2012
   Time     4:00 PM

The court is scheduling a meeting for Thursday, May 31 at 4 pm in the Cumberland County Courthouse to hear from interested parties and the public.We will post when there is more information available. We hope you will be able to attend and share your views. This is an important meeting regarding guardian ad litem reform and we need your support. More details and directions to follow.