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Legally Speaking

 

Issue: December, 2008
Author: Stacey L. Obrecht

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New Rules for Guardian ad Litem Program

On July 1, 2008, the administration of the Guardians ad Litem Program (hereinafter “GAL Program”) was transferred from the Wyoming Supreme Court to the Wyoming Office of the Public Defender (hereinafter “PD Office”) pursuant to 2008 Wyo. Sess. Laws 316.

Before this date, the Office of the Public Defender began the rulemaking process, as required by subsection (d) of 2008 Wyo. Sess. Laws 316. The Program rules were written by Diane Lozano, the State Public Defender, and Ryan Roden, the Deputy State Public Defender. A public comment period and a public hearing were held. Based on comments, numerous changes were made to the Rules and a second comment period was necessary. This period has ended and the final rules were adopted by the PD Office on October 30, 2008, and filed with the requisite entities. These final rules can be found on the GAL Program website. Once the rules are approved, they will also be on the Secretary of State’s website.

Some of the major changes made to the rules in response to public comment were lowering attorney caseloads, implementing a new case contact system, adding in the responsibility to independently investigate services prior to recommending out-of-home placement, requiring live training and a formal complaint process.

Perhaps the biggest change to the GAL Program after it transferred to the PD Office was the change in payment. Previously, the counties would pay the attorneys $100 per hour directly and then submit a bill to the state GAL Program for reimbursement of $80 per hour. Effective July 1, 2008, all certified and trained guardians ad litem (hereinafter “GALs”) are paid $100 per hour directly from the GAL Program. The attorneys’ bills are reviewed and the counties are billed by the GAL Program for their match. The Program tracks all cases, caseloads and payments.

Only attorneys on the GAL Panel are assigned new GAL cases in the participating 22 counties. To be on the GAL Panel, an attorney must have completed the required training, apply to the GAL Program and be awarded a contract by the GAL Program. The current GAL Panel is posted on the Program website at gal.state.wy.us. The GAL Program currently has 95 contracts with attorneys for GAL services.

Planning is currently underway for the 2009 Children Justice Conference. In previous years, this conference was entitled the “GAL Conference,” but is being revamped and enlarged this year to attract not only GALs, but also public defenders, parents’ attorneys, judges, CASAs, DFS workers and more. The GAL Program is co-sponsoring this event with the Children’s Justice Project, an initiative with the Wyoming Supreme Court. It is scheduled for June 23-25, 2008, in Cheyenne, Wyoming at the Little America Hotel & Resort.

For more information on the GAL Program please call (307) 777-7480, e-mail sobrec1@state.wy.us, or go to the Program’s website at gal.state.wy.us. The Office of the Public Defender is committed to the mission of the GAL Program:

“The specialization of children’s law practice in Wyoming - empowering youth and families through advocacy.”


Stacey L. Obrecht received her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology/Criminal Justice from the University of Northern Colorado, and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Wyoming College of Law. She is currently the Director of the Wyoming Guardians Ad Litem Program within the Wyoming Office of the Public Defender. She is also a member of the National Association of Counsel for Children, a board member of Prevent Child Abuse Wyoming and serves on many committees regarding children, women and Wyoming’s juvenile justice system.

Copyright © 2008 – Wyoming State Bar

     

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