04/30/04 — Guardian ad Litem volunteers honored

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Guardian ad Litem volunteers honored

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on April 30, 2004 2:04 PM

Volunteers who advocate for abused and neglected children in the courts were honored Thursday by district, regional and state officials of the Guardian ad Litem program.

These volunteers are so important, said the district supervisor, Colleen Kosinsky, because child abuse has killed so many preschool children.

"Being a volunteer is not easy," she said. "You have hard decisions to make. You do it because it's the right thing to do to protect the child."

The 137 volunteers in the 8th Judicial District that spans Wayne, Greene and Lenoir counties serve 474 children in 240 families. They attended 804 court hearings last year.

"You made sure that the children are protected," Mrs. Kosinsky told them. "You pressured the agencies to meet their needs, speeded up the adoption process and made sure hundreds of children live in a safe, permanent home because of your work."

Mrs. Kosinsky told about 70 volunteers from Wayne, Greene, Lenoir and Johnston counties and court officials at an appreciation luncheon at the Outback Steakhouse that their work made a difference.

She said she believed that the volunteers' work eventually will stem the tide of abuse and neglect that took the lives of 26 children last year in North Carolina.

However, more volunteers are needed. Mrs. Kosinsky said six families did not have an advocate because none was available. She said she needed about a dozen more.

A Guardian ad Litem volunteer must complete 25 to 30 hours of training on a flexible schedule, be sworn in by a District Court judge and commit at least four hours per month on appointed cases. More information is available from the Goldsboro office at 731-5659.

The Guardian ad Litem program was established in 1983 by the General Assembly to provide mandatory representation to abused and neglected children in court. The volunteers investigate each child's situation, determine his needs, discover the resources in the family and community that meet those needs, facilitate disputed issues, offer evidence in court and promote the best interests of the child. The program served more than 15,000 children last year in the state.

Mrs. Kosinsky also recognized the lawyers who work with the program. She presented a plaque to Tim Finan of Goldsboro for his 14 years of service and will present a plaque to George Jenkins of Kinston for his 20 years of service.

Jane Volland, the state Guardian ad Litem administrator, noted that the luncheon took place during Prevent Child Abuse Month and Volunteers Month.

"You do so much for so many children," said Ms. Volland, who was accompanied by Cy Gurney, the regional administrator.

State Rep. Louis Pate of Mount Olive welcomed the group, saying all volunteers provide an importance service. He commended them for work that often is overlooked.

The restaurant manager, Dan Strohecker, also received a plaque for sponsoring the luncheon.