Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Would you want a Guardian ad litem with this kind of training?

This is a look at two businesses. One financial the other legal. Both deal with sensitive information, rules and regulations. Both have training programs to give the tools needed to stay within accepted standards and compliance. Both are radically different.

With these two examples ask yourself who is better trained to handle difficult situations?

1. Training consists of 8 weeks of in class study during which the process, rules and regulations are learned. There is some applied training where the students are able to study situations as a means to gain experience. Students are tested at certain points. This allows for the trainers to verify at least a minimal understanding to perform the job. There are also group discussions which at times involve people who have experience. These veterans able to give real life experience as to what the new trainees can expect. There is some role playing between seasoned professionals and the new trainees.

After 8 weeks of in class training the new trainees are able to put what has been learned to practical use. While in a real environment there are seasoned people available to answer questions. There is also several weeks of quality control to make sure the new trainees are doing the work properly and to correct any issues right away. This type of mentoring and internship tapers off over time depending on how quickly the new trainee learns.

Throughout this training there is constant feedback to the new trainees. In the working environment that feedback is even more important as a mistake made could cost the company financially. Handling other people’s money can become highly charged especially when something is perceived as going wrong. There are layers upon layers of company as well as legal rules and regulations involved to make sure those handling financial transactions are within compliance. Support from seasoned employees assures and reinforces the understanding that is needed to help customers while staying within compliance.

2. Training consists of 16 hours of in class study during which theory is learned. There may be some applied training where students are able to study situations as a means to gain experience. There is no testing during the 16 hours of training nor at the end.

After 16 hours of training there is no feedback to the new trainee. There is no mentoring or internship for the new trainee. Experience is gained at the expense of the consumer. There is no means of testing whether the new trainee is within compliance or whether or not there is a basic understanding of the rules that govern the way he/ she is to operate.

While dealing with a person’s finances is a world apart from dealing with the complexities of a divorcing family there are similarities. Both can become highly charged when something is perceived as going wrong. Both can have a huge impact on the individual(s) involved both currently and into the future. It is the training though that defines how well one does the job in question.

With the training examples given we see the training one receives for handling people's money and for handling people's lives. We see that with one - the process given to train people is extremely careful in its approach. That there are tools and systems to give support so that errors may be caught before they become major issues and hurt a person or family. There are safeguards in place to help the trainee to continue to refine what has been learned and gain experience and to do so not at the expense of the consumer. With the other we see a training process that has been developed to handle people - children and families - who are in crisis and need help. The actions of these trainees have the very real possibility of scaring the people they are supposed to help. There are no tools to help the trainees at any time. Experience comes at the expense of the families and children.  There are no safeguards in place to prevent this damage from happening. There are no systems to catch errors before they become issues.

The first is an example of a training process that is used by businesses. The second is used by the Judicial Branch in training Guardians ad litem. Would you rather  have a Guardian ad litem who has gone through a training process that has clearly defined goals, offers some means to measure understanding and offers support through mentoring and internship programs? Or would you rather have someone who has gone through the current training process of sitting in a room and warming a seat for several hours?

The answer is obvious. The Judicial Branch has a training process for Guardians ad litem that in a business environment would fail to meet the needs of consumers. Under the current model the Judicial Branch would be overwhelmed with problems and it would either go out of business because of competition from businesses that have better training programs or it would change to meet the needs of those it is supposed to serve.  But…. The Judicial Branch is not a business but a monopoly that is accountable to no one. It also has lost sight who it is supposed to serve - being more concerned with how the stakeholders will react than consumers. As a result sub-standard training is allowed and even encouraged. Where those that come up with the training (the stakeholders) curriculum do so based on their own experience. To say (or post on ones "Professional Trainings" page) that one has experience in developing training does not mean one has the necessary tools or experience to do so. Currently there is no cohesiveness in the goal of Guardian ad litem training.

The training for Guardians ad litem should be removed from the control of the Judicial Branch and the stakeholders that are enmeshed in deciding what is acceptable training. Training should be done by professionals who know and understand the goals that are to be achieved and have experience in developing curriculum.

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  1. It appears that the Judicial Branch has slapped together its Guardian ad litem program and then like a Frankenstein added to the program. The family courts are a disgrace and there should be a cleaning out starting at the top and working down.

  2. Amazing that for something as important as a childs life is left in the hands of a person with little or no real training to accomplish such a task. Leave it to the Judicial Branch for making a bigger mess of a messy situation.

  3. I have 6 years education in psychology and 31 years experience working with children. And somehow a GAL with only 8 weeks of training is suddenly an expert in child development and mental diagnosis. I have been chalked up to have several mental disorders making me incapable of parenting, caring for a child, or accepting reality, all based on one conversation with a GAL whom I challenged, even though all my medical records and past psyche evals state the complete opposite. Not only is proper training a priority for GALs, so should be psyche evals ruling out any mental disorders or personality disorders, such as narcissism, which could do a great deal of harm to the child and family the GAL is involved in. I predict a whole new wave of lawsuit with the serious harm and permanent damage some of these GALs are causing to children and their families. And may god have no mercy for a failed justice system...when its the children who pay the price.

    1. Thank you for the comment. One correction to the fact that you give. GALs do not have 8 weeks of training as you indicate. That figure was for a business that handles peoples money and the training that is given at that business. Guardians ad litem have currently only have 16 hours of training over the course of a few days. In no state is the training of a GAL very extensive. The least is 6 hours. The most is 30+. Still not a lot considering what they are doing. Again thank you for the comment.

    2. It is appalling that judges (with no family systems, child development, nor mental health training) buy into the idea that individuals, with only 16 hours of superfluous GAL training, are qualified to make decisions regarding highly conflicted family systems. Worse still, they actually believe that the decisions proffered by such simpletons will resolve problems and serve the best interests of the children caught up in these circumstances. This belief system is blatantly flawed and nothing short of complete and utter lunacy! How do GALs sleep at night? Oh yeah...It's called hubris!

    3. We put our faith into a system that has no accountability over the people who work within it. Yet those who have to use it are held accountable for their every action. It is a dysfunctional dynamic. Di's Place - I would agree. It is appaling that these judges (with no training) buy into the idea that individuals (GALs) can have any kind of meaningful impact. But has the ability to cause a lot of hostility and conflict.