Representation of Children in Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings - Ohio

Date:

Making The Appointment

Citation: Rev. Code § 2151.281; Rules of Sup. For Cts., Rule 48.02

The court shall appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL), subject to rules adopted by the supreme court, to protect the interests of a child in any proceeding concerning an alleged abused or neglected child. The GAL shall not be the attorney responsible for presenting the evidence alleging that the child is an abused or neglected child and shall not be an employee of any party in the proceeding.

The court shall appoint a GAL to protect the interests of a child in any proceeding concerning an alleged dependent child if any of the following applies:

  • The parent of the child appears to be mentally incompetent or is under age 18.
  • There is a conflict of interest between the child and the child's parents, guardian, or custodian.
  • The court believes that the parent of the child is not capable of representing the best interests of the child. The court may appoint a GAL to protect the interests of the child in any other proceeding concerning an alleged dependent child.

In court rules: A court shall appoint a GAL in abuse, neglect, dependency, unruly, and delinquency cases as required by rule or statute.

A court shall appoint a separate attorney to represent a child in abuse, neglect, dependency, unruly, and delinquency cases in which the wishes of the child differ from the recommendations of the GAL.

If an attorney who has been appointed to serve as both GAL and attorney for the child believes that a conflict exists in the dual appointment, the attorney or party shall immediately notify the court in writing with notice to the parties or affected agencies and request a separate appointment of a GAL and attorney for the child. The court shall make such additional appointment or order to remedy the conflict. The court also may make such appointment on its own motion.

The Use of Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs)

Citation: Rev. Code § 2151.281(J)

When the court appoints a GAL, it shall appoint a qualified volunteer or court-appointed special advocate (CASA) whenever one is available and the appointment is appropriate. Upon request, the Department of Job and Family Services shall provide for the training of volunteer GALs.

Qualifications/Training

Citation: Rules of Sup. For Cts., Rule 48.04; 48.05

A GAL shall complete preservice education provided by the Supreme Court and the Ohio Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)/Guardian ad Litem Association, or with the approval of the appointing court, another provider.

Preservice education for GALs shall be 12 hours. Of the 12 hours of preservice education, 6 hours shall be obtained via a live education program where the GAL is physically present. The remaining 6 hours of preservice education may be satisfied by online or live education, teaching, writing, mentoring, or field-training activities with approval by the appointing court.

Six hours of preservice education shall include training on all the following topics:

  • Basic human needs, stages of child development, and the impact of trauma
  • Communication skills, including, but not limited to, communication with children and adults, interviewing skills, methods of critical questioning, use of open-ended questions, understanding the perspective of a child, sensitivity, building trust, multicultural awareness, diversity, and confidentiality
  • Child abuse, neglect, dependency, unruliness, delinquency, and assessing risk and safety
  • Family and child issues, including, but not limited to, family dynamics; substance abuse and its effects; basic psychopathology for adults and children; and domestic violence and its effects, including assessing for lethality and safety
  • Legal processes, the role of a GAL in court, available community agencies and resources, methods of service, records checks, local resources and service practice, report content, mediation, and other types of dispute resolution processes
  • Any other topic that concerns the role of the GAL to help determine the best interests of the child

An individual who is currently serving as a GAL on January 1, 2021, shall be deemed compliant with the preservice education and not be required to complete the 12 hours of preservice education.

Continuing education for GALs shall total 6 hours annually and be provided by the Supreme Court; the Ohio CASA/Guardian ad Litem Association; or, with the approval of the appointing court, another provider.

Of the 6 hours of continuing education, 3 hours shall be obtained via a live education program where the GAL is physically present. The remaining 3 hours of continuing education may be satisfied by online or live education, training, writing, mentoring, or field-training activities as preapproved by the appointing court. Continuing education shall consist of advanced education related to topics covered in the preservice training.

If a GAL fails to complete 6 hours of continuing education within any calendar year, the individual shall not be eligible to serve as a GAL on any new appointments until this continuing education requirement is satisfied. The court shall have the discretion to continue the current GAL appointments.

Specific Duties

Citation: Rev. Code § 2151.281; Rules of Sup. For Cts., Rule 48.03

The GAL for a dependent child shall perform whatever functions are necessary to protect the best interests of the child, including, but not limited to, investigation, mediation, monitoring court proceedings, and monitoring the services provided the child by the public or private children services agency that has temporary or permanent custody of the child and shall file any motions and other court papers that are in the best interests of the child in accordance with rules adopted by the supreme court.

In court rules: The responsibilities of a GAL include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Provide the court recommendations of the best interests of the child
  • Attend any hearing relevant to the responsibilities of the GAL
  • Upon becoming aware that the recommendations of the GAL differ from the wishes of the child, immediately notify the court in writing
  • If the GAL is an attorney, file pleadings, motions, and other documents as appropriate and call, examine, and cross-examine witnesses
  • Be available to testify at any relevant hearing
  • If the GAL is not an attorney, request the court to appoint an attorney for the GAL to file pleadings, motions, and other documents as appropriate and call, examine, and cross-examine witnesses

Unless specifically relieved by the court, the duties of a GAL shall include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Become informed about the facts of the case and contact all relevant persons
  • Observe the child with each parent, foster parent, guardian, or physical custodian
  • Interview the child, if age and developmentally appropriate, when no parent, foster parent, guardian, or physical custodian is present
  • Visit the child at the residence or proposed residence of the child in accordance with any standards established by the court
  • Ascertain the wishes and concerns of the child
  • Interview the parties, foster parents, guardians, physical custodian, and other significant individuals who may have relevant knowledge regarding the issues of the case
  • Interview relevant school personnel, medical and mental health providers, child protective services workers, and court personnel and obtain copies of relevant records
  • Review pleadings and other relevant court documents in the case
  • Obtain and review relevant criminal, civil, educational, mental health, medical, and administrative records pertaining to the child and, if appropriate, the family of the child or other parties in the case
  • Request that the court order psychological evaluations, mental health or substance abuse assessments, or other evaluations or tests of the parties as the GAL deems necessary or helpful to the court
  • Review any necessary information and interview other persons as necessary to make an informed recommendation regarding the best interests of the child

How the Representative Is Compensated

Citation: Rev. Code § 2151.281

The court may fix the compensation for the service of the GAL, which shall be paid from the treasury of the county, subject to rules adopted by the supreme court.