Guardian ad litem Reform and the Executive Branch of Maine Proposal for Change

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 MeGALalert@gmail.com

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