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Need for Guardian Ad Litem volunteers increasing in Orangeburg, Calhoun counties

Volunteers are paired with children who are involved with the Department of Social Services and speak on their behalf in court.

ORANGEBURG COUNTY, S.C. — Since 1984, the Guardians Ad Litem program through the Department of Children's Advocacy has offered a voice to children who are abused or neglected throughout South Carolina. Over the years, the need for volunteers in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties have increased.

Volunteers are paired with children who are involved with the Department of Social Services and speak on their behalf in court. 

“In both counties, I’ve noticed an increase in the number of cases and a decrease in the number of volunteers willing to serve for the families so unfortunately staff is taking the majority of the cases in my county," said Orangeburg County Connie Legare.

Right now in Orangeburg County, there are 68 cases with 133 children. Calhoun County has 10 cases with 22 children. Among both counties, there are only 8 guardians. According to Legare, this is putting more strain on their staff.

“We as staff would be overburdened if we had to take every case. It gives a personal touch because then the child knows this person is not here because it’s their job to be here for me like DSS.  This person legitimately wants to be here for me, cares about me, and cares about what happens to me," she said.

Statewide, the GAL program is serving 7,149 children, and there are 1,249 active GAL volunteers.  Currently statewide volunteers are advocating for approx. 55% of the children, with the rest being handled by GAL staff.

22 of 45 counties have active volunteer counts in the single digits.

Volunteers and children being served in counties near Orangeburg and Calhoun:

  • Aiken: 36 volunteers | 338 children being served
  • Bamberg: 3 volunteers | 18 children being served
  • Barnwell: 4 volunteers | 26 children being served
  • Clarendon: 14 volunteers | 69 children being served
  • Lexington: 74 volunteers | 368 children being served
  • Sumter: 8 volunteers | 103 children being served

In Orangeburg County, Legare says there have recently been more truancy cases where children have frequent unexcused absences from school. Volunteers are needed to help guide children through court proceedings.

“Parents, a lot of the times appreciate what we are doing. Even if it doesn’t mean the unification with them, they appreciate the assistance that we give in helping them to ensure their children are well taken care of," she said.

Anyone over the age of 21 could be eligible to volunteer. For more information, visit the Guardian Ad Litem website.


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