Representation of Children in Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings - Washington

Date:

Making The Appointment

Citation: Rev. Code §§ 26.44.053; 13.34.100

In any judicial proceeding under this chapter or chapter 13.34 (dependency or termination of parental rights actions) in which it is alleged that a child has been subjected to child abuse or neglect, the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) for the child. The requirement of a GAL may be deemed satisfied if the child is represented by counsel in the proceedings.

The court shall appoint a GAL for a child who is the subject of an action under this chapter, unless a court for good cause shown finds the appointment unnecessary. The requirement of a GAL may be deemed satisfied if the child is represented by an independent attorney. The court shall attempt to match a child with special needs with a GAL who has specific training or education related to the child's individual needs.

If the court does not have an available GAL program with a sufficient number of volunteers, the court may appoint a suitable person to act as GAL for the child.

The Department of Social and Health Services and the child's GAL shall notify a child age 12 or older of his or her right to request an attorney and shall ask the child whether he or she wishes to have an attorney. If the child requests legal counsel and is age 12 or older, or if the GAL or the court determines that the child needs to be independently represented by counsel, the court may appoint an attorney to represent the child's position.

The Use of Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs)

Citation: Rev. Code §§ 13.34.100; 13.34.105

When a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) or volunteer GAL is requested on a case, the program shall give the court the name of the person it recommends and the appointment shall be effective immediately. The court shall appoint the person recommended by the program. If a party in a case reasonably believes the CASA or volunteer GAL is inappropriate or unqualified, the party may request a review of the appointment by the program. The program must complete the review within 5 judicial days and remove any appointee for good cause. If the party seeking the review is not satisfied with the outcome of the review, the party may file a motion with the court for the removal of the CASA or GAL on the grounds the advocate or volunteer is inappropriate or unqualified.

CASAs and GALs may make recommendations based upon an independent investigation regarding the best interests of the child that the court may consider and weigh in conjunction with the recommendations of all the parties.

Qualifications/Training

Citation: Rev. Code §§ 13.34.100; 13.34.102; 2.56.030(15)

Each GAL program shall maintain a background information record for each GAL in the program. The background file shall include, but is not limited to, the following information:

  • Level of formal education
  • Training related to the guardian's duties
  • Number of years of experience as a GAL
  • Number of appointments as a GAL and the county or counties of appointment
  • The names of any counties in which the person was removed from a GAL registry due to a grievance action
  • Founded allegations of abuse or neglect
  • The results of State and national criminal background checks
  • Criminal history for the past 10 years

The background information report shall be updated annually. As a condition of appointment, the GAL's background information record shall be made available to the court. If the appointed GAL is not a member of a GAL program, the person shall provide the background information to the court.

All GALs must comply with the training requirements established under § 2.56.030(15) prior to their appointment, except that volunteer GALs or CASAs may comply with alternative training requirements approved by the Administrative Office of the Courts that meet or exceed the statewide requirements.

The administrator for the courts shall, under the supervision and direction of the chief justice, develop a comprehensive statewide curriculum for persons who act as GALs. The curriculum shall include specialty sections on child development, child sexual abuse, child physical abuse, child neglect, domestic violence, clinical and forensic investigative and interviewing techniques, family reconciliation and mediation services, and relevant statutory and legal requirements. The curriculum shall be made available to all superior court judges, court personnel, and all persons who act as GALs.

Specific Duties

Citation: Rev. Code §§ 13.34.100; 13.34.105

The appointment of the GAL shall remain in effect until the court discharges the appointment or no longer has jurisdiction, whichever comes first.

A GAL through an attorney, or as otherwise authorized by the court, shall have the right to present evidence, examine and cross-examine witnesses, and be present at all hearings. A GAL shall receive copies of all pleadings and other documents filed or submitted to the court and notice of all hearings.

Unless otherwise directed by the court, the duties of the GAL include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • To investigate and collect relevant information about the child's situation and report to the court factual information regarding the best interests of the child
  • To meet with, interview, or observe the child, depending on the child's age and developmental status, and report to the court any views or positions expressed by the child
  • To monitor all court orders for compliance and to bring to the court's attention any change in circumstances that may require a modification of the court's order
  • To report to the court information on the legal status of a child's membership in any Indian Tribe or band
  • To make recommendations based upon an independent investigation regarding the best interests of the child that the court may consider and weigh in conjunction with the recommendations of all of the parties
  • To represent and be an advocate for the best interests of the child
  • To inform the child, if he or she is age 12 or older, of his or her right to request counsel and to ask the child whether he or she wishes to have counsel
  • In the case of an Indian child, to know, understand, and advocate the best interests of the Indian child

The GAL shall have access to all information available to the State or agency on the case. Upon presentation of the order of appointment by the GAL, any agency, hospital, school organization, division or department of the State, doctor, nurse or other health-care provider, psychologist, psychiatrist, police department, or mental health clinic shall permit the GAL to inspect and copy any records relating to the child or children involved in the case, without the consent of the parent or guardian of the child or of the child if the child is under age 13, unless such access is otherwise specifically prohibited by law.

How the Representative Is Compensated

Citation: Rev. Code §§ 13.34.100(c); 13.34.108

The court shall specify the hourly rate a GAL may charge for his or her services and shall specify the maximum amount the GAL may charge without additional court review and approval. The court shall specify rates and fees in the order of appointment or at the earliest date the court is able to determine the appropriate rates and fees and prior to the GAL billing for his or her services. This section shall apply except as provided by local court rule.