South Carolina needs 300 new volunteer Guardian Ad Litems to meet current caseloads.
Lexington, SC (WLTX) - Without what's called a Guardian Ad Litem, cases in the family court system plainly get stuck.
Guardian Ad Litems are volunteers assigned to the kids in state care, caught in the middle of the family court system. They accompany the children through what can be a lengthy and unfamiliar court process.
"There simply aren't enough to go around, especially for the whole state but there aren't even enough to go around in Lexington County," said Lexington County Clerk of Court Beth Carrigg.
Over the last two weeks, 11 family court cases in Lexington County went before a judge and were postponed because a guardian was not appointed to the child.
"While I think that's a small number in the entire scheme of things, 11 cases are 11 cases that need the attention of a Guardian Ad Litem," Carrigg said.
South Carolina's Guardian Ad Litem program serves every county minus Richland, which has it's own program called Richland CASA.
Across the state, 2,500 Guardian Ad Litems have represented more than 5000 cases already this year.
"They are volunteers," said Blondean Funderburk who runs the state's Guardian Ad Litem program.
Funderburk estimates South Carolina needs 300 new volunteer Guardian Ad Litems to meet current caseloads.
"The unique thing about our volunteers is that if we're short in an area, they're always stepping in to make sure that children are being served," Blondean said.
National standards say volunteers should never have more than 2 cases.
While most volunteers in our state don't have any more than that, the need for new volunteers has some Guardian Ad Litems managing 3 or 4 cases.
"The end result is cases get postponed, there are not resolutions to those cases in a timely manner, and it certainly has a negative effect on the family," Carrigg said.