As GALs for children in foster custody, we take a broad view of our young client’s needs. By following best practices and advocating for trauma-informed care, we seek to connect our clients with the services they need to heal from their experiences. We strive to give our clients a voice and empower them to participate in the child protective services process. As advocates for children, we investigate the circumstances of the case, report to the parties and the court, encourage settlement in children’s best interests, and connect the family with community resources.
Through Project Permanence, we work to establish adoptions and legal guardianships for children whose parents are not able to safely care for them. First, we seek to prevent child welfare involvement by establishing a legal relationship between children and non-parent caregivers. Second, Project Permanence seeks to get children already involved with child welfare services out of the foster care system by establishing guardianships and adoptions. Ultimately, the goal of this project is to help children live in permanent homes and forge lifelong connections to stable families.
Our VOICES program promotes safety and reduces the number of violent crimes in our community by intervening in families plagued by domestic violence. The occurrence of domestic violence is a tragic reality of daily life for many families on Hawaii Island. Children may be the primary victims of domestic violence or secondary victims, traumatized by witnessing abuse and growing up in unsafe environments. Either way, children are the most vulnerable members of the family, and children victimized by domestic violence have an increased risk of lifelong behavioral and emotional problems. GALs intervene in these toxic environments and help the Family Court determine that a child has been victimized. We recommend specific court orders and litigate when necessary to ensure that our clients are safe.
ABOLISHING BARRIERS TO LEARNING AND EDUCATION
The ABLE Program is a collaborative, community-based approach to addressing chronic school non-attendance. The ABLE Program allows family court judges on Hawaiʻi Island to appoint GALs for students with pending truancy cases. When a child is regularly absent from school, it can often be a sign of distress elsewhere in his or her life. Children’s Law Project GALs investigate the circumstances surrounding the child’s truancy, report findings to the court, and make recommendations for a course of action in the best interest of the child. By identifying at-risk children early and providing a consistent supportive intervention, we can not only determine what barriers to education a child is facing, but also ensure their continued safety and well-being.
GAL RESOURCE CENTERS
The Children’s Law Project also works to expand and support our community of child advocates on Hawaiʻi Island. Our GAL Resource Centers in Hilo and Kona, provide a safe, confidential, child-friendly environment where GALs can interview their clients and caregivers. They also provides a library with resource materials, trainings, and collaborative meetings for GALs. By supporting and training GALs, we seek to maximize the level of advocacy on our community offers court-involved children on Hawaiʻi Island.
Our staff of attorneys, social workers, and lived-experience advocates work collaboratively with government agencies, healthcare workers, mental health professionals, school staff, and other non-profit organizations on care teams to holistically support the needs of youth. The Multi-Disciplinary Team approach allows for better communication among all service providers and our clients to improve outcomes.