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What We Do

Giving Children a Voice

Consultation with children is not just a right under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – it is important and leads to:

  • improvements for children themselves and for society generally
  • inclusion of children and young people in decision making can promote children’s protection, improve their confidence, communication skills and ability to negotiate, network and make judgements
  • improved services, policies, research, active citizenship

However in certain types of legal proceedings, it can be challenging for children to have direct input into the proceedings for a range of reasons. This is where a court can appoint a Guardian ad Litem.

What is a Guardian ad Litem?

A Guardian ad Litem supports children to have their voice heard in certain types of legal proceedings, and makes an independent assessment of the child’s interests. A Guardian Ad Litem is an experienced and qualified person with expertise in working with children who have been through difficult home and family situations and have often experienced trauma and loss.

What We Do

Barnardos is the largest and longest established National Guardian ad Litem Service in Ireland, working with over 850 children in 2017. We have more than 30 Guardians working with us, all are selected by interview process, with full references and police vetting, and receive ongoing supervision, training and support.

Read our service standards

Barnardos Guardian ad Litem Service was established in 1997 and takes its name from the Latin for Guardian at Law. Our service is based in Dublin and Cork, and we have people who work for us outside of these locations so we can cover all areas of Ireland.

Further Information

Follow the links below for information for young people, for parents and guardians, and for relatives and carers.

How it Works

The Guardian ad Litem makes the judge aware of the child’s own wishes, and the Guardian’s view of their interests. The Guardian ad Litem consults with the child, the child’s family, social workers, and any other key people or organisations who know the child and the family. These consultations are crucial to ensure that the child’s best interests are presented independently to the Court.

The Guardian ad Litem Service can make a real difference – in the best interests of children and in the interests of justice in promoting better outcomes for children who are subjects of legal proceedings.

The Children Acts Advisory Board have published guidelines for the qualifications, appointment and work of Guardians ad Litem. This is available at

How a Guardian ad Litem becomes involved

It is always the Judge who decides if a Guardian ad Litem will be appointed and who it will be. However, anyone involved in certain types of cases can make an application to the court for the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem. Barnardos regularly provides the courts with lists of our team members available for work in their local areas.

Here are some examples of where a Guardian ad Litem should be considered:

Children in care

  • Where Tusla have applied to the court for a Care Order, an Interim Care Order or a Supervision Order on a child 
  • Where the child is likely to be placed in long-term care, or where brothers and sisters might be separated 
  • Where the child’s wishes differ significantly from their care plan 
  • Where there is a substantial dispute over the care plan – especially when there are changes in access between a child and their family 
  • Where a child’s liberty is at issue because of behaviour problems, such as special care applications 
  • Where a parent is unable or unwilling to fully participate in the proceedings, or where there are significant nationality, language or cultural differences 

Contact Us

If you would like more information about our Guardian ad Litem service, please contact one of our offices.

Dublin office: Christchurch Square, Dublin 8.
Tel: (01) 453 0355 Fax: (01) 453 0300 [email protected]

Cork office: 
Blackmore House, Meade Street, Cork.
Tel: (021) 431 0591 Fax: (021) 431 0691 [email protected]

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