Thursday, November 22, 2012

Almost 40 years with no Compliance System for Guardians ad litem

In 2006 OPEGA ( Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability ) produced a report highlighting some of the problems with the Guardian ad litem program in Maine. What OPEGA highlighted back in 2006 for Maine are issues that sadly can be seen in many states across the country.

One of the audit findings by OPEGA was that there is a lack of compliance, performance controls and evaluation systems. The Judicial Branch has not been competent when it comes to oversight or performance monitoring in the 30+ years prior to the report.  Six years later we find the Judicial Branch still without any quality controls in place to monitor and evaluate Guardians ad litem. There is no mechanism to identify GALs that are not complying with requirements or who are not involved in the lives of the child(ren). OPEGA also recommended the establishment of an independent oversight board that would ask for feedback on GAL performance. Being able to give feedback and having a place where this feedback, good or bad, is available for consumers would help in the matter of oversight and management. An Angie’s list of sorts would weed out under performing GALs or limit their business. Those that perform to standards would be rewarded for their ethics and behavior.

It was 30+ years before OPEGA investigated and reported on this issue. Six years later the situation has not changed except that there has been 6 more years of damage to Maine's families and children. How much longer will Maine's children have to wait for change to come? If we wait for the Judicial Branch to bring about change it may be another 40 years. Can we wait that long?

If you want to read a summarized copy of the 2006 OPRGA report click here.

A copy of the report done in 2012 – the Power of the Powerless which covers many of the same issues can be found here.

If you are or know someone who has had issues with a Guardian ad litem please contact us for support at We can also be found on Facebook.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Maine's Malfunctioning Guardian ad litem (GAL) program

In 2006 OPEGA (Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability) did a report on the Guardian ad litem (GAL) system for the state. This came over 30 years after GALs were created as mandated by the Federal Government. From that investigation that was completed six years ago came 11 recommendations to help fix the problems that had been festering for so long. As was pointed out in the last post – none – of these recommendations have been acted upon.

One out of the 11 issues that OPEGA found with the Guardian ad litem program is addressed:

1. OPEGA found back in 2006 that GAL services were not being managed as a program with a focus on the quality and effectiveness of service delivery.

When OPEGA made the recommendations back in 2006 the Judicial Branch agreed to convene a task force to evaluate what OPEGA advised. October 2007 The Judicial Branch was to put forth its recommendations and how it was going to fix the problem. Five years later nothing has happened with the Guardian ad litem program and the issues that confront this very broken system. In 2008 Toby Hollander President of the Maine Guardian ad Litem Institute (the trade organization for Guardians ad litem – also known as MEGALI ) basically reiterates what OPEGA had indicated was wrong in his “Proposal to Create a Guardian ad Litem Commission and Office of the Child's Advocate”.

In this proposal that Mr Hollander echoed the OPEGA report in that the weakness of oversight of Guardians ad litem was a major concern. Mr Hollander is quoted as stating “There is no ongoing supervision of Guardians. There is no effort to evaluate the quality or efficiency of their work.” One would think that in 2012 four years after his proposal that there would be more support from the Guardians ad litem that MEGALI fights for in the recent committee investigations in Guardian ad litem oversight and management. It should come as no surprise though that MEGALI and the Judicial Branch have walked lockstep perusing no change despite recognition that change is needed.

Since May 2012 we are aware of over 40 people, 40 families who have been hurt by these organizations. How many others during the prior six years or the 30 plus years before that have been harmed because the Judicial Branch and more recently MEGALI have chosen to turn away and do nothing to fix a problem – a problem that continues to fester?

If you have had issues with a Guardian ad litem or know someone who has. Please contact us for support at or like us on Facebook

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Proposal for Guardian ad litem reform from the Executive Branch of Maine Government

As citizens of Maine, we challenge the Judiciary and their political base, the divorce industry: Is there a single current report or any data whatsoever that shows where Guardians ad litem have had a positive influence on children and their parents? The Judiciary and the divorce industry repeatedly claim that there is no problem with the present GAL situation and their bland denial of a problem is not sufficient when the well being of our Maine children and families are at stake. If there is no problem as this group would have us believe then why is there such overwhelming evidence that contradicts their claim. Do a search on Guardian ad litem reform or problems and the searcher is faced with a mountain of information and reasons why there are problems.

These problems run the gamut from punitively high costs, to non-existant management and control to cases where the Guardian ad litem is blind to child endangerment. Least we not forget - the Guardian ad litem program is a state sponsored, state created and state perpetuated program which lacks any form of management as other state programs have. The Judiciary is a tax funded state agency. Is this lack of oversight in the "childs best interest"?

Maine produced an incredibly thoughtful report back in 2006 done by OPEGA (Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability). It is a report that highlighted many issues with title 22 (Children's Protective) cases. We feel, from our experience, that the issues brought to light are also directly relevant to all cases involving  GALs and are not just specific to title 22. The selection, training and functions of GALs are identical no matter what their work focus. The Rules and Regulations that are supposed to govern them are identical, and the complaint procedure, whatever it may be, is identical.

The 2006 OPEGA Audit on Guardian ad litem performance was the first and only Guardian ad litem functional evaluation in over thirty years. OPEGA made 11 sensible recommendations on how the Guardian ad litem program could be made more accountable. In brief the program suffered from a lack of any standard recognizable form of program management. In the six years since – none of the recommendations have been implemented by the Judicial branch here in Maine.

This should come as no surprise as the Judicial Branch has no management tools for oversight. In addition, they have to walk carefully to avoid offending their political base in the divorce industry, an array of powerful lawyers, Guardians ad litem, and others who make a rich living from divorce. They have dragged their feet on a problem that they are encouraged by their base to view as coming from just a few people. The Judicial branch and divorce industry have repeatedly pointed out that  there are only on average 13-14 complaints a year and that one or two result in any kind of action. 

These threadbare numbers need to be put into context. Why are they so low? Does the Judicial Branch make it easy for consumers with legitimate issues to complain? Do they use complaints as a management information tool to correct Guardian ad litem practitioners, or to improve the program? We have followed some of these complaints, and the problems with the complaint process are obvious. No criteria for making a complaint, no instructions, no feed back and no opportunity to rebut a Guardian ad litem's denial. These figures have no weight at all. The Judicial Branch runs an undemocratic, unregulated, authoritarian system that is at pains to cater to the divorce industry. We can realistically expect no change in this 'modus operandi'. The Judiciary and divorce industry are unlikely to self-regulate in ways that will correct the problems and serve the public and our children.  

The committee currently working with members of the divorce industry will make change - a word here and a word there. The changes being worked on by the industry and Judicial Branch will do nothing more than reinforce the status quo. Meanwhile the life-style of the divorce industry will continue riding upon the backs of consumers who must mortgage their homes, increase their indebtedness and worry about the future education of their children. Maine Guardian ad litem Alert has been made aware of over 40 reasonable complaints that stem from improper management of Guardians ad litem. This since May of 2012. It is interesting to note that 8 of these complaints  are against just 2 Guardians ad litem. There is a problem here and it is not limited to "just a few unhappy people" as one prominent Senator pointed out back in January 2012.

We encourage you to check out what OPEGA recommended back in 2006. The OPEGA recommendations need to be implemented, the entire Guardian ad litem program needs to be moved to the Administrative Branch (as other states have done) where there can be real program management.

2006 OPEGA – GAL Final Report

2006 OPEGA – Executive Summary

2006 OPEGA – Annual Report pages 19-20 extracted

2012 The Power of the Powerless

If you or someone you know has had issues with a Guardian ad litem we ask that you contact us at

Monday, November 5, 2012

Guardians ad litem have a minimal of training to make life altering decisions

Is 16 hours of CORE training enough to make altering changes?

There are professions that have a profound impact on our lives. These people who can make life or death decisions or determine the outcome of a legal battle have in some cases years of training.

A doctor for instance goes through medical school which is an additional 4 years of education above college. Then depending on the branch of medicine another 2 to 5 years of residency before anyone can practice their profession. A lawyer is similar with 3 – 4 years of education after college. To become a Judge is an additional 7 years beyond law school.

To become an electrician, Plumber or a Lobsterman requires years of apprenticeship and thousands of hours of on the job training. These are just a few jobs where the path to that profession requires in some cases years of experience and training. Each level of training builds on the previous training.

A Guardian ad litem is a person that when introduced into a divorce/ custody battle can and does have a profound impact on a persons life. To become a Guardian ad litem one has to have a background as lawyer or social worker – yet unlike other professions the training a Guardian ad litem receives does not build on the previous education they may have. In fact Guardians ad litem do not use their previous background when working as a Guardian ad litem – or at least that is how it is supposed to work in theory. Guardians ad litem on average across the country have training from a low of 16 hours (Maine) to a high of 50 hours. This falls short of the thousands of hours that a Doctor, Plumber, Electrician or Lawyer have to go through. These professions can and do have a profound impact on a persons life and they are held accountable. Would you want a doctor to operate on you if you knew he had only 16 hours of training? Or how about a plumber without any apprenticeship?  The answer is no. Guardians ad litem though have a minimal of CORE training before they get to make life altering decisions on you and your family. If you push back you run the risk of the Guardian ad litem forcing you to take anger management or parental counseling for example. 16 hours, 50 hours or even 100 hours does not give you the educational background to make these kinds of life impacting decisions. Guardians ad litem are only para professionals with little or no background but lots of influence over your life.

If you have had issues with Guardians ad litem please contact us at