We believe the one big, overriding issue for Guardian ad litem reform is the total lack of oversight of their work. This issue has been identified by several other important groups before – but in thinking more deeply about this issue – it is more than just a lack of oversight in the form of supervision. It is that most (if not all) Guardians ad litem are licensed professionals – lawyers, social workers, and such. They are in professions that have legally mandated oversight by their various Maine boards of licensing, yet these professional boards seem to be disabled by current laws governing Guardians ad litem from taking any normal corrective action on complaints from the public.
The code of ethics and standards that apply to Guardians ad litem under their licensed professions – somehow don’t apply when they are in the role of Guardian ad litem. As an example, a social worker working as a Guardian ad litem may use his/her Social worker status on his/her professional letterhead for all purposes. The social work letterhead markets the Guardian ad litem as a social worker to the public, yet if he/she violates code of social work ethics under that umbrella – while serving as a Guardian ad litem – he/she has immunity, by the mere fact of being a Guardian ad litem. The professional board is prevented from acting on its oversight function. The best it can do in an egregious situation is dismiss the case “without prejudice”.
It seems to us that the very experienced Maine licensing board should have a major role in Guardian ad litem oversight – since they are already overseeing and licensing these professionals in their base professional capacity. They should not be disabled from so doing by law.
The licensing board and the Judicial Branch might ask themselves – why shouldn’t the same ethical and other professional standards apply to both professional situations simultaneously? Any additional regulatory requirements arising out of the Guardian ad litem role should be relatively easily added to the licensing boards mandate. The lines of professional accountability are currently very unclear for the consumer, who may incorrectly assume that a Guardian ad litem who is also a Social Worker or other professional (lawyer, doctor) will be held to the professional standards of their base profession. And they are not. When functioning as a Guardian ad litem, they are free from any accounting to their professional boards.
The current law governing Guardians ad litem allows someone in serious violation of the standards and ethics of their professional licensing board to continue to function as a Guardian ad litem, protected from any corrective action by their board just by the fact of being a Guardian ad litem. The law currently disables the professional standards of the licensing boards. An unprincipled Guardian ad litem is professionally bullet proof.
Contact MeGALalert@gmail.com for more information.