Role Perceptions of Guardians Ad Litem and Children's Attorneys in Dependency Cases
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe State of Arizona remains one of the few states where the number of children entering care is increasing rather than remaining stable or decreasing (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2015). Although there is no research delineating the reasons for this trend, there are a multitude of challenges within Arizona’s child welfare system. This study examines one of the challenges within this system: the specific roles of two different legal representatives for children in dependency cases. The study aimed to discover how guardians ad litem (GAL) and children’s attorneys (CA) in Arizona perceive and execute their roles, as well as to better understand their needs. Qualitative, semi-structured interviews were conducted with five GALs, four CAs, and one attorney who identified as both. Results indicated both types of attorneys perceived their roles to be distinct statutorily, subjective, and an opportunity to provide their child clients with assistance in a variety of ways. Attorneys described execution of their roles through descriptions of general legal duties, communication with child clients, and interactions with other professionals. Lastly, attorneys detailed four challenges to successful execution of their roles including: coping with their own mental health, overwhelmed courts, limited training, and a lack of community resources. This study was limited by a homogeneous sample, in regard to both race (all Caucasian), as well as location which limits generalizability. Further, only one researcher conducted analyses. Future research should seek to better understand others' perspectives regarding child welfare cases, such as judges, parents' attorneys, Department of Child Safety (DCS) caseworkers, or the child clients. Research could also be helpful in creating specific guidelines in determining the "best interests" of a child, or developing materials and trainings that would assist attorneys in their current roles.
Degree ProgramGraduate College