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Non-Lawyer Guardian Ad Litem in Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings - The King County, Washington, Experience

NCJ Number
Washington Law Review Volume: 58 Issue: 4 Dated: (November 1983) Pages: 853-870
N Neraas
Date Published
18 pages
After surveying theories of the guardian ad litem's role in child abuse proceedings, this paper discusses the need for the guardian ad litem in such cases, outlines relevant Washington State child abuse legislation, and reviews the application of this legislation in the King County Court Appointed Special Advocate Program.
Although the need to appoint guardians ad litem to represent children in abuse proceedings is widely recognized, there are several shortcomings in typical State statutes and commentaries on the subject. First, the common assumption that guardians ad litem must be attorneys fails to consider that guardians ad litem perform investigative as well as legal representation functions. Legal training is not required to perform the investigative function. The exclusive use of paid attorneys as guardians ad litem is a financial burden. Second, many States, including Washington, have not clearly articulated the role and responsibilities of the guardian ad litem. The King County Guardian Program overcomes many typical problems with such programs and provides cost-effective representation of abused children. The program's use of lay volunteers to investigate circumstances and provide recommendations significantly decreases the cost of representation and increases the time spent in investigation. The program's use of attorneys at the adjudicatory stages protects the child's due process rights and helps promote the child's best interest. The program has also established standards of representation for the guardian ad litem. Still, better legislative guidelines for guardian ad litem duties would facilitate more consistency in the effective representation of abused children. A total of 117 footnotes are provided.


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