Custody Advocate – Christy
Posted on May 27th, 2015
I learned about being a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) through a high school project. A friend of mine had a parent who was a GAL in Wayne County. So I have known about CASA programs and what GAL’s do since I was in high school.
After graduating college with a degree in psychology, I was working in Marketing at United Health Care. I liked my job, but I didn’t feel like I was doing something I was passionate about. Around that time I came into contact with Child Advocates. I knew about the need for CASA’s so I started volunteering at Child Advocates under Gregg Ellis. After volunteering for a couple of years, I knew they weren’t doing any hiring at the time, but they were looking to expand staff in the future. I continued to volunteer and continued to express I was interested in working for the organization. In 2004 I was hired on as a Guardian Ad Litem. I had my own case load, but at that time I wasn’t in court. So I was out visiting children, doing team meetings and writing reports, but I wasn’t in the court room reporting directly to the judge.
Child Advocates was a staff of 12 when I started in 2004. I was here when they went through the transition in 2005 where a law was passed that every child had to be appointed Guardian Ad Litem. Once the law was passed, I then had a caseload and my own docket in court. I worked CHINS (Child In Need Of Services) cases for 8 years. These cases are brought by allegations of abuse or neglect to children at the hands of their parents or guardians. In 2012 I took a new position and transitioned into the Custody Program. In the Custody Program we work with families in high conflict divorces or guardianships while still representing the best interest of the child or children involved. At the time I was looking to do a little something different and to assist another group of children in need.
There are many differences in working CHINS vs. Custody cases. We deal with similar issues: alcohol, substance abuse, mental health. However, on the Custody side, you aren’t working with a team of individuals. It is typically just the Guardian Ad Litem working the case. So DCS is not involved, there are no counselors or therapists that are involved unless recommended by Guardian Ad Litem. These services that the Guardian Ad Litem requests must be paid for and the Guardian Ad Litem helps find resources and low cost services for them the utilize.
There is also a big mental piece with the kids on the custody side. These kids are typically caught in the middle of a bad situation because adults and/or parents are battling out for kids. I think it’s pretty crazy how the parents and guardians don’t realize the effect they are having on their children.
I have worked for Child for 11 years now and I would say it’s a roller coaster ride. You have highs and lows. It’s very rewarding and fulfilling, but can also be a challenging position. It’s great to see successful cases and know you made a positive impact on the life of child. That’s what I’m passionate about and what keeps me doing what I’m doing every day.