Office of the Guardian ad Litem

The Office of the Guardian ad Litem (OGAL) is appointed as the guardian ad litem for most of the children involved in the abuse and neglect cases filed by the Juvenile Officer. The OGAL attorneys speak on behalf of the children at all hearings. It is OGAL's responsibility to recommend what it believes is in the best interest of each child that it represents. This is not necessarily the same as what the child wishes. Part of that recommendation is based on the belief that each child is entitled to a safe, permanent home, whether that is with the child's parents or with an adoptive family or other permanent placement. OGAL staff also advocate for children at various meetings held by the Children's Division.

Staff: OGAL is comprised of a director; six attorneys; and five legal assistants.

Volunteer Opportunities

When abused or neglected children end up in court, they often have nowhere to turn. An Office of the Guardian ad Litem (OGAL) Volunteer is a trained member of the community who advocates for the best interest of these children. You don't need any legal or social work training. All you need is a concern for children.

Who can be a Guardian Ad Litem Volunteer?

Anyone who:
Is 19 years of age or older.
Possesses good judgment and common sense.
Has a high school diploma or its equivalent.
Has a sense of caring and commitment to children.
Will present favorable references and consent to a background check.

 

What is the role of a Guardian Ad Litem Volunteer?

The OGAL Volunteer is a trained member of the community who works at the direction of the professional staff of the Office of the Guardian ad Litem to represent the best interest of the child. The Volunteer provides a level of case involvement and interaction with the child that is otherwise impossible for the small staff of the Office of the Guardian ad Litem. The Volunteer's role in supporting the professional OGAL staff generally requires fulfilling one or more of the following five functions:

1. Investigator to conduct a thorough independent investigation into the child's family, living environment, school, medical and psychiatric history, special needs, and social services;
2. Monitor to assure that the social services agencies and other organizations and individuals are meeting their responsibilities in providing services to the child;
3. Protector to minimize the often harmful effects of the adversarial court process on the child;
4. Reporter to inform the Office of the Guardian ad Litem, and in some cases the court, regarding the child's circumstances and needs;
5. Advocate to assure the child's wishes are heard and the best interest of the child is presented to the court and agencies dealing with the child.

Above all, an OGAL Volunteer's primary goal is protection and promotion of the child's best interests.

Depending on the responsibilities of the OGAL Volunteer in the specific case, the Volunteer may speak with the child, parents, family members, social worker, school officials, health providers and others who are knowledgeable about the child's situation or history as well as reviewing all records pertaining to the child -- school, medical and social services etc.

What if I need help with my assigned duties? You will receive 20 hours of free training before being assigned to a case, in addition, Volunteers are assisted by the volunteer coordinator and the professional team of attorneys, legal assistants, and administrative staff of the Office of the Guardian ad Litem.

How do I apply? Complete and submit by Email the following form: Volunteer Application:

OR

For additional questions: Send email to:adam.zaiger@courts.mo.gov  or call the Office of the Guardian Ad Litem at (816) 435-4870 for additional information.