Saturday, July 28, 2012

When is Burning a Child with a Cigarette Okay?

There is a case in Maine that has run its course through the system. The case is a perversion of Justice and the father has been put through the wringer by the Guardian ad litem.

The father recently filed a complaint with the head Judge – Judge LaVerdiere – in which he complained about the Guardian ad litem and the neglect this woman showed for the case and the child. This father was and still is upset with the medieval process that he and others have to go though with the Guardians ad litem assigned to their case. There is a shopping list of why this Guardian ad litem practiced neglect and bias – throwing any shred of common sense out the window and not looking out for this child's best interest.

1. This Guardian ad litem neglected the child’s safety. Several years ago in July it was brought to the GALs attention that his son was burned – it appeared that the burns were caused by cigarettes. In addition there were several large bruises on his shoulders that his son complained about. The father sought treatment for his son as any good parent would do. He also complained to the Guardian ad litem.

According to the rules for Guardians ad litem if a GAL knows that a child has been abused he/ she must make an immediate report to DHHS. In this case the GAL did not report and dismissed the fathers concern. In addition the father was accused of causing trouble – which could be true if a parents concern for their child is causing trouble.

2. Despite the fact that the father has no history of drug or alcohol use or mental illness he was forced to have mental evaluations done so that he may have limited supervised visits with his child. These visits are limited to once a week for a few hours. In addition he was forced to have an assessment done for anger management because the Guardian ad litem felt the father had issues in controlling his anger. This father did what any parent would do when faced with the threat at losing contact with their child. He complied. The Dr. doing the evaluation pointed out that the fathers perceived anger was justified considering the harassment he was getting from the Guardian ad litem. The Guardian ad litem chose to ignore the findings of this Dr – thus disrespecting the opinion of a professional and making a diagnosis of the problem. This Guardian ad litem (and this would also apply for any Guardian ad litem) has no authority to make a diagnosis – never. This Guardian ad litem under rule 3, 3.2, 12(a) is supposed to work with other professionals involved in the assessment or treatment of the parties involved. She clearly did not.

3. This Guardian ad litem showed bias against the father. In addition to the assessments the father was forced to take – this despite the fact he had no history of violence, mental illness or alcohol and drug use – the mother was never asked to do the same. The mother as part of her daily regimen of coping with life is on a mix of ten plus drugs that includes - Vicodin, Oxycontin, Ativan, Neurotin, Phenergin and Medicinal Marijuana. The child was placed under the mothers care despite the knowledge the mother was often incapacitated by these drugs. Is it any wonder the father may have shown frustration towards the Guardian ad litem's recommendations?

The Judgment of this Guardian ad litem is clouded. Both the rules and standards state that a Guardian ad litem must make well reasoned and defensible recommendation regarding the best interest of the child and be an independent voice, free of bias. In all three points it is questionable whether the child’s safety was taken into consideration. Certainly the 'best interest of the child' was ignored. These points and others were cited in the complaint to Head Judge LaVerdiere. He went through and weighed the rights and wrongs – and in the end decided, upon consultation with the Guardian ad litem, that this Guardian ad litem did nothing wrong. Well at least nothing that would warrant even the light slaps on the wrist that Maine's Judiciary has doled out to their GALs. You be the Judge and let us know if the Guardian ad litem was right or wrong.


For more information on the rules and standards please follow these links:


  1. This is not the first case in which we've seen Judge Laverdiere dismiss what appears to be a serious GAL complaint without giving a reason. In fact, it seems to us that most (ALL?) cases get dismissed, and the judge never gives a reason.

    What is fascinating is that he frequently suggests that the complainant read the GAL rules and regs, though these are being quoted in the written complaint. Not for nothing is Laverdiere known on the street as "a GAL's best friend".

  2. After some study of the issue, we feel that referring almost any GAL complaint to Judge Laverdiere is a mistake. Our sense is that routine DISMISSAL is his modus operandi. Dismissal of a complaint for no stated reason, like the one reported above, sends 2 very troubling messages to the public:

    1.) The complaint is a LIE ! Not worth discussing!

    2.) The GAL is OK, meets standard for the JB. We can assure you about the GAL's quality. The consumer is protected by Judge Laverdiere's review of the case. All is well.

    In our opinion, both #1 and #2 are WRONG! Both are misleading the public and keeping a dysfunctional GAL in good standing. Not only are they wrong, they are dangerous, they bury the issue and they imply that this GAL is safe.

    The Laverdiere "complaint" process needs an audit by an independent out-of-state source. Or by Maine's legislature.

  3. When you see protection of GALs who ignore this kind of child safety issue and other similar issues of child endangerment, you sense that we are seeing just the tip of the iceberg. It is an operational policy of "overlook" instead of "oversight".

    With no administrative supervision, no oversight and at $120.00 to $200.00 per hour, the GAL program is a magnet for many subpar lawyers and Social Workers, who might not make it in their core profession, where supervision and professional oversight would weed them out.

  4. It is very hard for a trade organization or union, like MEGALI to discipline or remove defective members. These members, after all, are card-carrying dues paying, voting members. It is hard for any trade organization to rat on a friend, who had "a hard childhood" (or something). Ratting on friends is also hard for those that create (roster) GALs and train them. It is also hard to rat on a regular work buddy.

    This means that for true oversight all "buddies" need to be removed from oversight of "buddies"!

    Maine has a very powerful "buddy" system.

  5. Don't take our word for it that there seems to be a significant GAL "oversight" problem with Judge Laverdiere and family court judges. We favor families and children and have been labelled as "bad sports", disturbed by custody judgements. We are clearly on the side of Maine families and children.

    Why doesn't the Judicial Branch seek out an in depth, full scale "audit" of the current "oversight" modus operandi by Judge Laverdiere et al?

    Why not ask OPEGA (Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability) to conduct a thorough audit of current practices? Or get an out of Maine organization with respectable credentials to do an audit? Or ... ask a skilled investigative reporter from the media ferret out the problems?

    There are many generic ways to assess program effectiveness. An internal review is a good place to start, but may often be complicated by internal politics and resistances to change.

  6. There are several problems with Guardian ad litem identity. What are they: a lawyer or a mental health professional? A GAL must have one or the other as core background, but then the rules state that they do not function as either of these professional groups when acting as a GAL. It is confusing indeed.

    The confusion is compounded by the fact that GAL "training" consists of 16 hours of classroom education, provided in an uneven lecture format. Oh, yes, and ... a large loose leaf note book with information of use to GALs. There is no supervised internship. Then it is 'jump into the deep end of the pool" and start "GALing". No wonder so many GALs seem lost or inadequate. It is "seat of the pants", fake it, till you make it! as training!

    Does 16 hours of class room training make a GAL a professional? Hardly. It can't even qualify as paraprofessional training. So there is huge vocational identity and role confusion which gets played out at public expense. it is a bit of legalism and a bit of social work (16 hours worth) grafted onto a pre-existing legal or mental health profession. Not a blended hybrid, a graft between two incompatible professional stocks.

    One might design social work training for lawyers and legal training for mental healthers at the para professional level, which might strengthen the work skills of GALs from each background. It would still be of great importance to have a required supervised internship. One might institute an exam for GAL rostering. All of these would add quality to a low quality training for a key court position.

    These would also add great expense to design and implement quality training for GALs, if the JB were to run it. It might be passed over to an educational institution as a JB sub-contract, and pay for it with student fees.

    What is shocking is that courts are in apparently good faith inflicting this under educated "vocational frakenstein" on families and children.