04/30/06 — Guardians ad Litem honored at luncheon

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Guardians ad Litem honored at luncheon

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on April 30, 2006 2:03 AM

About 130 volunteers who advocate in court for abused and neglected children in Wayne, Greene and Lenoir counties were honored Friday with an appreciation luncheon.

These volunteers, or Guardians ad Litem, were recognized by the district supervisor, Colleen Kosinski; the chief District Court judge, Joe Setzer; the administrative assistant of the state Guardian ad Litem program, Brad Fowler, and an advocate lawyer, George Jenkins of Kinston.

Quoting from part of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, Fowler said, "People will little note nor long remember what is said here today, but what they will remember is what you do every day."

The volunteers undergo extensive training, then interview the children and family members and prepare reports for the judges.

Fowler said the reports were the real importance of what the volunteers do.

The goal of the Guardian ad Litem program is to ensure that all children live in a safe and permanent home.

According to state figures, more than 1,800 maltreatment reports were investigated in Wayne County in 2002-03, the last for which figures are available. More than 600 reports were substantiated, an increase of almost 80 percent in five years.

Mrs. Kosinski said about 20 to 30 more volunteers were needed to meet the needs in the three-county district. Anyone who wants to volunteer was asked to call the Goldsboro office at 731-5659.

But Mrs. Kosinski said there were exciting things happening, such as a $10,000 grant to fund a recruiter to train volunteers. The new person will start work Monday.

Setzer, who worked as a lawyer advocate before there were volunteers, said he did read the reports and appreciated what the Guardians ad Litem do.

"We hope we can make a better decision for the children," Setzer said.

Jenkins, a lawyer advocate for more than 20 years, said the volunteers "care for the best interests in the district. You do a wonderful job."

Jenkins said the volunteers do not always find things in the homes as they expect and things are not always as they seem.

Guardians ad Litem from Craven and Johnston counties attended the luncheon that was donated by Outback Steakhouse with advocate lawyer Darrell Brown of Goldsboro, judges, court officials and state Rep. Louis Pate.