This is the first of a series of Member Spotlights we’ll be running, to showcase the good work and many talents of Spirit of Life Unitarian Universalist members. Kicking us off is Gregory Cardinal, a long time member of Spirit of Life UU, who volunteers as a Guardian ad Litem. Here’s Greg’s story:
I was born and raised in Manchester, New Hampshire. Upon graduating from Tilton Preparatory school for boys in Tilton .NH, I enlisted in the United States Army. My military occupation specialty was Military Police. I remained in the army until I was discharged for Medical Reasons. After I was discharged, I spent the next seven years in various colleges and universities with the idea of teaching Mediaeval History. When I left the university system, I became apprenticed to a restorer of 17 and 18th Century furniture and art works. This I did for a number of years. I also owned a business engaged in making ceramic animal figures which I sold at various art festivals.
In the end, I retired and became a dilettante. This last profession or avocation suits me well!
Life has been good to me, though, and it occurred to me that I ought to “put a bit into the pot” , and I decided to become a Guardian ad Litem. A Guardian ad Litem is a volunteer, appointed by a court, who promotes the interests of the abused, abandoned, or neglected dependent children of the State.
The Guardian ad litem is, effectively, the eyes and ears of the judge. It is guardian’s duty to effectively promote the child’s interest. It is not his or her duty to promote the interest of the State of Florida, the child’s parents, the criminal court or anyone else’s interest. The judge relies on the guardian for unbiased recommendations as to what is best for the child. To do this effectively requires good deal of training. The formal part of this training consists of several weeks of lectures by experts in the field. The informal part lasts a lifetime. The tools of the Guardian are interesting.
When a child is assigned to a Guardian ad Litem, the judge issues a T-order that compels anyone having records or information relevant to the case to share them with the Guardian. The guardian has access to psychiatric records, school records, health records, police records. He or she is empowered, and required, to visit the child at least once per month. The guardian has access to the child as he or she sees fit. The judge will, likely, require the Guardian to express his or her recommendations in court. These tools and duties are powerful and invasive. With this in mind, a good deal of effort is invested in making sure that a prospective guardian will use them as intended.
A Guardian ad Litem must be an adult able to furnish a number of suitable references. A background investigation is made as to a prospective guardian’s criminal history or lack thereof. Because the Guardian is required to furnish written reports to the court on a monthly basis, a good command of written English is required. All of the information that the Guardian is privy to is strictly confidential. Therefore, professional behavior suitable to an officer of the court is required.
What is the payoff? It is simple.
The Guardian is going to be the person, on occasion, who enables a child, to become the best she or he can become. The children involved, desperately, need intelligent, diligent, and effective help to manage the baggage life has saddled them with.
We admire Greg and the good he does in the world, and we’re happy he chooses to call Spirit of Life UU his spiritual and social community! Stay tuned for more stories about members, and if you’d like more information about the Guardian ad Litem program in Florida, visit Guardianadlitem.org ,