Sunday, July 7, 2013
Maine is on the verge of Guardian ad litem reform - celebrate this change
Monday, July 8th is a day for Maine children and families dealing with some aspect of divorce, to celebrate. Against all odds, against our wildest expectations, in our first year of existence as "grass-roots" advocates, we have a comprehensive Guardian ad litem reform bill! And... believe it or not, Maine - dare I say it - is leading the country.
It isn't that other states haven't done bits and pieces of Guardian ad litem reform, a legislative "tweak" here or there, but, as we well know, all would-be "change agents" face awesome "headwinds". The opponents of Guardian ad litem reform as we know are truly formidable. The Guardians ad litem themselves, the family lawyers, the family court judges and the whole apparatus of the Judicial Branch, the infamous "stakeholders" know the system, know the existing law, are well organized professionally and have the financial resources to wage a political war.
But we have made good friends who have spoken the truth, ever more loudly....
We have an ever growing, much cherished group of Megalalert friends. We have bit by bit, using modern media, expanded our group, talked, shared and born witness to the horrors of a serious Guardian ad litem scandal in Maine's Judicial Branch. The Judicial Branch's Guardian ad litem program - with no oversight, no supervision and legal codes that have further re-enforced a lack of accountability - have pursued the self interest of its workers without visible restraint. And many children and their families have been badly hurt, as a result. Despite the very defensive claims of the Judicial Branch that it is about "bad sports", people who have had a bad custody decision, this has never been the focus of our issues. Our issues are about cruelty in decision making, ignorance in practice and blind greed. Our issues are about governing structures in the Guardian ad litem program that don't work, that fail the people who need them most. Our issues are about a Guardian ad litem program data base on sheets of paper in cardboard boxes in district courts, which the Supreme Court can't regularly access for management oversight. They don't know they don't know!
Our friends have courageously born witness in public, legislative testimony.
We now have an educated legislature that has full knowledge of the Guardian ad litem problems, thanks to yeoman's work by Senator David Dutremble, Representative Lisa Villa, Senator Linda Valentino and other members of the Judiciary Committee. We have a unanimous majority of the 35 members of the Maine Senate, who see the Guardian ad litem problem. It would be hard to find legislators in denial, after an awesome "educational session" with Senator Dutremble!
It is about everyone speaking the truth about the problem with simple courage.
It is also about support from the Executive Branch of our government: meetings of the Governor and constituents on Saturdays, as people poured out their hearts about personal victimization by Guardians ad litem, and the Governor listened. It is about Executive Branch participation in planning legislation from the first meeting in December 2012. It is about personal calls from the Governor to constituents, urging them to overcome their fears and testify to the Judiciary Committee on March 28, 2013. It is about the Governor signing the bill on July 8th.
At its core, it is an improbable story of "the power of the powerless", the power of "Truth" that can't be silenced, about courage and determination.
And ... friendship!
For more information please contact us at NationalGALalert@gmail.com or like us on Facebook. In addition if you would like to express your opinion on the cost of Guardian ad litem service of the performance of a GAL. We would encourage you to take our survey. The results will be published later this summer (2013). The surveys can be found - here - Cost Performance. Thank you.