Career Story: Social Worker And Guardian Ad Litem In Child Abuse Cases

Social Worker And Guardian Ad Litem In Child Abuse Cases

Job Title: Guardian Ad Litem Court Investigator

Type of Company: Protection of abused and neglected children.

Education: MA

Previous Experience: Supervisor DCF Supervisor Massachusetts Child at Risk Hotline

Job Tasks: I am a social worker appointed by the court to investigate families whose children have been removed from parental custody due to serious concerns about physical or sexual abuse or neglect. I interview everyone concerned -- friends, relatives, social workers and other professionals, as well as the family themselves. Every family member is appointed an attorney who is present at the interview. Once all of the interviews are complete, I draft a report which includes my opinions and recommendations. All parties to the case have access to this report. Each report takes about six weeks and thirty hours to complete.

It's my responsibility to represent the best interests of the child when I am appointed as a guardian ad litem. This work also requires similar reports as well as testimony at hearings and at trial. The children I work with have often sustained broken bones and been subjected to abuse and neglect. The parents are normally the ones responsible. Once in a while I will see a case with injuries inflicted by an "unknown perpetrator." In these circumstances it cannot be proven who inflicted the injuries. But the injuries are often not consistent with that explanation.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is making a difference in the lives of a family. As I investigate it is easy to have compassion for the parents who may have harmed their children. It is fun and exciting to take the stand as an expert witness in order to protect a child. I have tons of flexibility and work out of my home office.

The worst part is knowing someone has harmed a child when you cannot prove it. It is also sometimes stressful getting the work done on time.

Job Tips: You must join professional organizations to get ongoing training and stay in touch with your colleagues. In order to do the job, you need to have prior experience in child welfare. But while the work is rewarding, it can be sad and dangerous too, depending on the type of clients you have. I've worked with gang members, prostitutes and drug dealers. It requires common sense and a thick hide!

Additional Thoughts: You would have to gain prior experience before applying to the court. The appointments are made directly by judges and there is an assumption that you know what to do without any training available through the court. This is particularly difficult when you are first starting out. You are given guidelines and that is all. You must take risks and learn as you go. You must go into the job feeling comfortable testifying in court.

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