Information for Parents, Relatives & Carers
What is a Guardian ad Litem?
A Guardian ad Litem is an independent person who is qualified and experienced in working with children and families. It is the Judge who is hearing the family’s case who appoints a Guardian ad Litem.
Barnardos has been providing a Guardian ad Litem service since 1997 and covers all areas of the country. Barnardos provides Ireland’s leading Guardian ad Litem service, where all Guardians ad Litem are professionally trained, properly vetted and have access to training, supervision and support.
The Guardian ad Litem Service can make a real difference by promoting better outcomes for children who are subject to legal proceedings. We make sure the child’s voice is heard.
Why is a Guardian ad Litem appointed, and what is their role?
A Guardian ad Litem is appointed to inform the Judge of the child’s wishes and feelings and to give advice on what he/she thinks is best for the child.
The role of a Guardian ad Litem is to independently establish the wishes, feelings and interests of the child and to present these to the court with recommendations.
When is a Guardian ad Litem appointed?
A Guardian ad Litem can be appointed in any of the following situations:
When children are involved in care proceedings (e.g. Supervision Orders, Care Orders, Interim Care Orders)
- Where the court is reviewing a child in care
- Placement of young people in High Support Units
- Placement of young people in Special Care Units
What does a Guardian ad Litem do?
The most important tasks for the Guardian ad Litem are to listen to the child and to write a report for court. A Guardian ad Litem will meet with the child, talk about his/her life and about what they would like to happen. There are many ways in which a Guardian ad Litem can work with a child, including:
What would you expect if a Guardian ad Litem is working with your child, a child in your family or a child in your care?
A Guardian ad Litem will meet with the parents and/or the relatives/carers of the child and will ask about the child and about what has happened in the child’s life as well as looking at plans for the child’s future. Sometimes a Guardian ad Litem will also meet with other family members, particularly those who play an important role in the life of the child.
A Guardian ad Litem will meet the social worker who is dealing with the child’s case, to discuss the involvement of the social work department with the child and with his/her family and carers and to consider its plan for the child’s future. The Guardian ad Litem will ask to see the files and records for the child and will also attend meetings in relation to the child.
A Guardian ad Litem may also meet with other professionals who are involved in the child’s life to gather information that will help to understand what is going on for the child.
After doing all of this, the Guardian ad Litem will write a report for court. The report is confidential and belongs to the court. It will be given to solicitors and may be available to be read by the parents of the child.
If you are not legally represented the court will guide you regarding reading the Guardian ad Litem’s report.
What is the difference between a social worker and a Guardian ad Litem?
A social worker is responsible for the care arrangements for the child as well as for working with the child’s family. A Guardian ad Litem is responsible for representing the wishes, feelings and interests of the child to court.
What do I do if I am not happy with the Guardian ad Litem?
- If you do not agree with something in the Guardian ad Litem’s report you should bring this to the attention of the court.
- If you are not happy with the work of the Guardian ad Litem you should bring this to the attention of the Guardian ad Litem. If, having done this, you remain unhappy, Barnardos has a complaints procedure which is available on request. Please note that, due to the formality of court proceeds, all complaints must be received in writing.