Last year, a parent group, Missoulians Supporting Guardian Guidelines (MSGG), visited a University of Montana social work class to share their heartbreaking experiences with the Guardian ad Litem (GAL) system for divorce proceedings. The parents’ stories touched the students in a profound way and fostered a desire to improve the GAL system. Eleven students collaborated with stakeholders (including parents, GALs, mental health professionals, court professionals and legislators) and carried out background research to analyze GAL policy, identify problem areas, obtain stakeholder perspectives, look into alternative models and provide recommendations for improvement. The students conducted interviews and attended meetings to gather information directly from stakeholders about the problems in the GAL system and the potential changes that could be made. The resulting project is truly collaborative and supported by parents, professionals, University of Montana students and faculty, GALs and Rep. Betsy Hands.
Three graduate students continue to be a part of a multi-faceted collaboration to research the GAL system. We are:
Katie Baumler, MSW, former student in School of Social Work
Erin Butts, MSW, former student in School of Social Work
Trish Petek, current student in School of Law
Our hope is to involve as many stakeholders (parents, GALs, professionals) as possible in the process of researching the current GAL system and determining how the GAL system could be more effective. We welcome feedback about our work and believe that collaboration with all stakeholders is essential to creating a system that will best meet the needs of the children, families and professionals involved.
GAL - CASE is a group of professionals and GALs in the Missoula community who meet on a regular basis to discuss the GAL system and provide opportunities for training and continuing education.