Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sorry, GALs, the Days of Wine and Roses are Numbered

A plumber will pay $100 or more for their license. This same plumber needs 1 year of technical college and must pass a Journeyman Plumber exam. If you pass the test you must work under the supervision of a Master Plumber for 2000 hours to take a Master Plumbers exam.  The technical education and the supervised practice are to protect the public and to assure the  quality of plumbing professionals.

If you want to go lobstering you must pay $125 for the license and then it is .80 cents per tag. The potential Lobsterman has to be an apprentice for over 1000 hours to obtain the license.

In the State of Maine you have to have a license from one of the Administrative Branch  licensing boards if you are an Accountant, Doctor, Alcohol and Drug Counselor, Therapy Assistant, Oil and Solid Fuel Technician, Physical Therapist, Social Worker and more than 50 other professions.  These licenses are mandatory if you are to work in the specific profession. The government requiring a license for these professions means that as consumers we can rest assured that the professional person dealing with you has a minimum of training. That there is some form of  regulatory oversight of the occupation involved, because the trade or profession requires some type of specialized skill for the safety and well being of the public. Government and society have deemed that we do not want charlatans delivering  "free-for-all" services, and licensing with testing, continuing education requirements and periodic  license renewal is an accepted method of regulation and oversight. The board that grants the license is also the regulator .

Then there are the Guardians ad litem "professional". These "professionals" are "trained" for 16 hours. Unlike the other professions that have to be licensed the Guardian ad litem does not, nor are they tested on what they learned in the 16 hours. They do not have to apprentice under an experienced Guardian to learn the applied ropes of practice. Guardians ad litem do have continuing education requirements. While one would hope  that the courses for continuing education would be related to the work - from what we have seen this is not always the case. Unless bill collecting and practice management are considered essential technical courses for a Guardian ad litem. Maybe bill collecting is essential as the bills often put parents into bankruptcy.  Then, unlike other professionals  whose license are dependent on continuing education, Guardians ad litem in Maine can fulfill their continuing educational requirement through the Maine Guardian ad litem Institute (MEGALI). This is the  trade organization for the Guardians ad litem and an unregistered lobby for them.  We hear that it wants to be officially sanctioned to provide the required continuing educational experience. This trade organization has no oversight as an educational institution.  It simply decides what courses to market and sells them to members for continuing education credits.  No one supervises these courses, or evaluates their usefulness for job performance.   Without oversight they could hypothetically offer a course on the interior decoration of a Guardian ad litem's office, for 6 CME credits.

There is a very real need to have Guardians ad litem licensed by a professional board with experience in doing this - one with a consumer protection focus.  It should not be done through the Judiciary, which lacks experience in consumer protection and oversight. There is also a very real need to have the continuing education revamped and managed though a University or Community College. There is a desperate need to provide an educational experience that has substance and a job-related focus for people interested in becoming a Guardian ad litem. If Maine continues on the present course without change,  it is guaranteed that future Guardians ad litem will have continuing, severe issues and conflict with those they are supposed to be working for and with.

If you have had problems with a Guardian ad litem or want more information about the issues surrounding this profession please feel free to contact us at:


  1. These are all good points. The problem with the GAL situation is that although they are a creation of the JB- totally, the JB appears afraid of the monster it has given birth to.

    The GALs and family lawyers and family-lawyer-GALs and family court judges make up the political "base" for the JB. They are a mini court of public appeal for the JB. They may make judicial complaints right up to the top. Hence the great care with which they are fed by the JB. Only under extreme public pressure is any action taken. And then with as little discomfort for the "base" as possible.

    It cries for outside consultation from a national organization. It cries for a government audit.

    1. Thank you for the comment - for the "reform" that is taking place on GALs, the Judiciary is taking the process from the top down instead of from the bottom up. There is only one person on each committee that represents the public/ consumer interest. The players have been asked to come to the table on a very real problem. They can be a part of meaningful change. Or they can be against. If they are against - their voice will be dimmed when change happens - and change will happen. Time is not on their side.

  2. We have the impression that most members of the public are shocked when they learn how little training for their role GALs have. To be able to charge $125.00 to $200.00 per hour after 16 hours of JB training (and a notebook!) is pretty rich. No internship is the other missing piece. Just learn form experience on your clients, which makes them, in effect, "guinea pigs", as a GAL learns from trial and error.

    If GALs didn't have legal immunity, this whole situation would have been confronted by multiple law suits, and corrective action would follow as a result!

    Get rid of GAL immunity.

  3. There is something rotten with the system that they work under. GALs are being protected by the courts and Judges that are supposed to manage them. It is sad when consumers are looked upon as being the bad guys and the system can do no wrong.

  4. Right now it is the JB's political base, which supports the 'status quo'. The committee to re-design GAL complaints was made up of JB/GAL supporters, with one public member. 20/1 was the ratio. It was a behavioral "message" from the JB about who they listen to, who drives the operation.

    Someone said: "Maine's JB is surprised that there are 2 other branches of government." We'd say: "They seems surprised that citizens are concerned."

    "The power of the powerless."