Guardian ad Litem Service Standards
The Welfare of the Child
- In all their work, ensuring the child’s welfare is the first and paramount consideration of the Guardian ad Litem. The Guardian’s work will be conducted in a manner and a pace appropriate to the age and understanding of the child and the seriousness of the situation.
- The Guardian ad Litem will plan their enquiry and will review this at regular intervals.
- The Guardian ad Litem will develop a comprehensive understanding of the child’s needs – physical, emotional, educational, health and development, given the child’s age and maturity. The Guardian ad Litem will make recommendations considering how best these needs can be met.
- The Guardian ad Litem will keep up to date with best practice development and research relevant to the field of practice and will apply this to individual cases.
- Throughout the case the Guardian ad Litem will consider the impact of delay on the child and will advise the court accordingly.
- The Guardian ad Litem will consider all ascertainable information and write a full report appraising all the options and make a judgement about recommendations that best meet the needs of the child.
Ascertaining the Wishes and Feelings of the Child
- The Guardian ad Litem will ensure that both the child’s wishes and feelings are ascertained about their current and future circumstances. The Guardian ad Litem will inform the child about the matters before the court and the court processes.
- The Guardian ad Litem will ensure that the child is aware of the limits of confidentiality.
- When a case involves a family group of children, the Guardian will ensure that the children’s interests are represented individually and as part of the family group.
- The Guardian ad Litem will ensure that the child’s wishes and feelings are ascertained regarding contact with each family member and the other significant people in the child’s life.
- The Guardian’s report to the court will specifically refer to the child’s wishes and feelings and will include any relevant letters or drawings that the child wishes to submit to the judge.
- The Guardian ad Litem will ensure that the child is kept informed and helped to understand that process of the Guardian’s enquiry and the reasons for their recommendations to the court.
- Where the child has sufficient understanding and maturity, the Guardian ad Litem will advise on their attendance and participation at court and facilitate this when appropriate.
- The Guardian ad Litem will consider the child’s ability to give informed consent to medical and other assessments.
- In cases involving children in detention, the Guardian ad Litem will ensure that the child’s wishes and feelings and interests are represented to key staff and managers at the place of detention and to the care planning group.
- The Guardian ad Litem is professionally independent from other parties and works impartially at all stages of the process.
- A Guardian ad Litem will avoid taking cases from offices in which they have worked where possible. A Guardian ad Litem may not represent a child if s/he has previously represented the parent of the child.
- A Guardian ad Litem has professional responsibility for their assessment and recommendation in each case and is accountable to the court.
- The Guardian’s report will show independent enquiry of the position of each of the parties, state their views, and consider the viability of their plans in relation to the child.
- The Guardian ad Litem will involve all parties appropriately in dialogue and will demonstrate appropriate professional independence.
- Guardians will be aware and respectful of gender, race, culture, religion, language, disability and literacy issues.
- The Guardian’s intervention will be sensitive to specific needs of the children and families and carried out in a non-discriminatory manner.
- At all stages the Guardian ad Litem will actively address any observed issues of discrimination with particular reference to gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religious belief, age, race, disability, membership of the Travelling Community and literacy. The Guardian will seek advice or consultation to complement knowledge and skills relating to these areas as appropriate.
- The Guardian ad Litem will identify and acquire as much information as possible about issues relevant to child and circumstances and will keep these in mind throughout the enquiry.
- The Guardian ad Litem will ensure that parties have full understanding of court process and will use appropriate means such as information leaflets and interpreters.
- The Guardian ad Litem report will indicate whether factors relating to the child’s background and identity have been properly addressed by all involved.
Guardian ad Litem Plans and Enquiry
The Guardian ad Litem will;
- construct an initial plan and proceed to implement it with minimum delay.
- approach the enquiry in a planned, focused and flexible, way. The avoidance of delay, other than planned and purposeful, will be a priority consideration.
- address areas relevant to the particular court proceedings.
- consider whether it is necessary for the child’s interest to seek appointment of a solicitor to represent the Guardian ad Litem in the proceedings.
- record initial and updated plans throughout the enquiry and retain these together with notes and other documentation acquired throughout the enquiry.
Guardian ad Litem Assessment of the Child’s Interests
Examination of Child’s interests and of the criteria for making an order.
- In care proceedings, the Guardian ad Litem enquiry will incorporate a full assessment and appraisal of the child’s needs.
- The Guardian ad Litem will comment on the criteria for making an order for the proceedings in question.
- The Guardian ad Litem will report on any other issues as appropriate as directed or requested by the court.
- The Guardian ad Litem will clarify for the court’s assistance key areas of agreement and disagreement.
- The Guardian ad Litem will continue to advise the court by means of review reports should the proceedings and the Guardian ad Litem involvement continue after the substantial report has been submitted to the court.
- For children in detention, the Guardian ad Litem will investigate the circumstances in which the child is detained and report to the court on the suitability of the detention and the appropriateness of the plan. The Guardian ad Litem will appraise and advise on alternative options.
Guardian ad Litem Evaluation & Report
- The Guardian ad Litem brings together relevant information and makes recommendations about the future arrangements for the child.
- Throughout the analysis and judgement making process, the Guardian ad Litem will focus on the need to arrive at specific decisions that are in the best interests of the child. Information will be evaluated and re-evaluated throughout the enquiry.
- The Guardian ad Litem will systematically analyse all the material gathered prior to writing the report.
- The Guardian ad Litem will address significant differences in views and incorporate these into the report.
- The Guardian ad Litem will consider and report on all the options available to the court and will indicate the suitability of each.
- The Guardian ad Litem will be familiar with all the work undertaken and its relevance and will be able to refer to relevant professional knowledge and research findings in support of recommendations.
- The Guardian ad Litem will complete a full report for the court which accords with service guidelines, unless the exceptional nature of the case requires otherwise.
Guardian ad Litem Attendance at Court
- The Guardian ad Litem attends all court appointments in Public Law proceedings unless excused by the court.
- The Guardian ad Litem assists in the overall court management of the case by contributing at court hearings relevant views which focus on the child’s needs.
- The Guardian ad Litem will alert the court to issues of avoidable delay in decision making for the child.
- The Guardian ad Litem will bring to the attention of the court any urgent matter affecting or likely to affect the child’s interests.
Closing the Case
After the final court hearing, the Guardian ad Litem will consider the best way to advise the child of the outcome.
In the event where a final order is made, but the case is scheduled for future court review, the Guardian ad Litem will seek clarification from the court regarding the expectations of his/her involvement. Generally, the Guardian ad Litem will seek to end the appointment when a final order is made, unless there are particular circumstances.