This past week, a voice from long ago sounded off. It was an old friend talking about our days as Guardians ad Litem, or simply GAL — it means “Guardian through the period of litigation”. I used to be one. GALs are legal advocates before the court on behalf of abused and neglected children. While some GALs charge fees, we are volunteers.
I should like to tell you of two cases.
The first case was that of an 8-year old lad who’d come home one afternoon and disturbed the slumber of his mother’s drunken, coked-out boyfriend. Said boyfriend, angered at having his sleep disturbed, lurched out to the kitchen and discovered my young charge rummaging around in the pots and pans, looking for some fresh-baked cookies. Roaring in outrage, the boyfriend grabbed the lad by the scruff, opened the still-hot oven and proceeded to stuff him in. Fortunately, the boy wriggled loose, got away, and ran for his life. As you might expect, the neighbors heard the ruckus and called the cops. A short time later, I was made his GAL.
Long story short, it took two years but I was able to terminate the mother’s parental rights and have custody of my young charge permanently transferred to his father. I was given the honor of taking him from the bad home over to the good one. On the way, we stopped for lunch where we had an earnest chat. As I was getting him settled in the car, he paid me the highest complement I’ve ever been paid: “I wish you were my dad”.
A short time later, I dropped him at his father’s place where we said our goodbye. As I drove off, I looked in the mirror and saw him wave. I returned the wave, went around the corner and went home. Best day of my life.
The second case was that of a 9-year old girl who’d been removed from her home, thanks to some sub-optimal decisions made by her mother. The office felt un-quiet about the foster placement and assigned the case to me. On the first meeting, I knocked on the foster mom’s front door and was greeted by something reminiscent of the Grim Reaper. It was the foster mom, standing there goggle-eyed with a fearsome rictus’ and pallid, splotchy skin.
Again, long story short, the foster mom was a lesbian pedophile. I know, I know; such creatures aren’t supposed to exist. But let me assure you they do. This foster mom was planning to adopt this kid and the court, smelling something amiss, asked for a GAL. I was assigned the case.
This foster mother had such cheek that she attempted to get into the courtroom and persuade the judge to let her accomplish her sinister plans. The judge gave her a jolly good rump chewing and promised to refer the matter to the Prosecuting Attorney. With that, he turned to the mother and told her that, after reading the GAL’s report, he was returning her little girl.
Did I tell you this was on Christmas Eve? No? Well it was. My little charge was parked upstairs in the GAL office while the matter was adjudicated. After the judge banged the gavel, we all went up to the office where mom had to sign some papers. I went into the room where the kid had been parked. When she saw me, a look of apprehension came to her face and she asked me if she were going home with “Mommy Tate,” the appellation by which the foster mom insisted she be called.
I shook my head and said “No.” Her jaw almost dropped. She seemed almost afraid to ask the next question: “Am I going home with Mommy?” I nodded, saying “Yes”.
With that, her jaw did drop and I pointed out the door and to the left. The kid was off like a shot. Squeals and hoots ensued and everyone let out small cheers; it was, after all Christmas Eve and as I look somewhat like Santa Claus, it was a most appropriate reunion.
Like I said, two very, very happy days.