PICKENS COUNTY — Across South Carolina, there is a shortage of men advocating for children in court. Cass Elias McCarter Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program organizers are challenging men to volunteer and be a consistent and caring adult for an abused or neglected child.
In 2016, more than 2,300 South Carolina citizens served as GAL volunteers. Of those, only 18 percent were men, while half of all children who need a guardian are male. GAL volunteers play a powerful role in child advocacy.
GAL volunteers are trained to advocate for the children they serve. Volunteers independently investigate cases and makes recommendations that give family court judges a more complete picture of what the impacted children need. Once assigned to cases, volunteers work with children throughout the entire process, making sure their voices are heard.
Volunteers spend an average of three to four hours a month working on a case, which includes visiting children and other activities like attending court hearings. Volunteers say small gestures are enough to make a huge difference in a child’s life.
“One child had an event at school and neither of his parents came,” said Charles Ballew, a volunteer who has a full-time job and three children of his own.
“The other children had their parents there,” Ballew recalled. “He was sad, but as soon as he saw me he grabbed my hand and we took off down the hall. It put a big smile on his face.”
Program organizers encourage anyone interested in making a difference for children — both men and women — to sign up. For more information about becoming a volunteer, visit www.scgal.org or call 1-800-277-0113.
The Cass Elias McCarter Guardian ad Litem Program is a member of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association.