9300 Quincy Avenue         Cleveland, Ohio 44106         Telephone 216-443-3377

Juvenile Court Guardian ad Litem Project

Our Mission Statement - To promote proficient and skillful representation of the interests of children and others before the Juvenile Court, to vindicate their rights, and achieve their best interests as valued members of our community.

The Guardian ad Litem Project was formed in 1978 in response to legislation requiring the appointment of a guardian ad litem (GAL) in all abuse and neglect cases, as well as in other juvenile court cases in which there is a parent/child conflict, where the child has no parent, where the parent is a minor or appeared to be mentally incompetent, or where appointment is otherwise necessary to ensure a fair hearing.

The Guardian ad Litem Project recruits and trains GALs and monitors their performance. The Project serves as the liaison between the GALs, the Juvenile Court, and the public. The Project operates according to its By-Laws under an Administrator and Advisory Committee. Throughout the years, the Advisory Committee has been comprised of attorneys, psychologists, college faculty, social workers, foster parents, and members of valued community organizations. The Executive Director of the Bar Association, the Program Director of Mediation, and the Juvenile Court Administrative Judge and Director of Court Services serve as ex-officio members of the Advisory Committee.
Guardian ad Litem practice is governed by the Guardian ad Litem Guidelines, the Juvenile Court’s Local Rules, Rules of Superintendence, and O.R.C. 2151.281. Some attorneys serve as guardian ad litem pro bono, while others earn a fee, either paid by Cuyahoga County or the parties to the case. The Guardian ad Litem Project provides a two-day training for attorneys to become qualified GALs in Cuyahoga County. Advanced Trainings, also provided by the Project, are required to continue serving as a GAL.

Guardian ad Litem Project Elects 2015 Officers

2015 GAL Project officers

From Left:  Donald E. Howard of Shaker Heights, Vice-Chair; Nancy Sin of Shaker Heights, Secretary;

Daniel J. Bartos of Rocky River, Chair; Thomas Kozel of North Olmsted, Treasurer

At its Annual Meeting in January, the CMBA's Guardian ad Litem Project Advisory Committee elected its officers for 2015.  Newly elected Chairperson Daniel Bartos's focus for the year is enhancing services provided to children and families in the Cuyahoga County Courts.  The Juvenile Court is embracing the GAL Project's development of a Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Program initiated by 2014 Chair Mary Bush.  Bartos is now taking the lead on the CASA program to bolster child advocacy provided by attorney guardians ad litem for 37 years.  Recognizing the child welfare and juvenile justice community's strong commitment to provide evidence-based services to families,  Bartos is also leading an effort to educate the legal community on the wide range of services available to strengthen Cuyahoga County's children and families.

The Guardian ad Litem Project also sponsors important community outreach programs

Books Galore


Books GALore - Provides new books donated by community members to the GALs’ wards and family members and also provides boxes of new, like-new, and used books at supervised visitation centers, the Detention Center and Juvenile Court waiting areas.


Both the GALlop for Children and the Holiday GALa raise funds for wards of guardians ad litem and caregivers. The GALs ask their wards or the caregivers for the child’s “wish list” and what the family needs, and the GALs fulfill those wishes.

The GAL Project had a fantastic time gathering birthday gifts for foster children in the custody of the Department of Children and Family Services.  The CFS Child Centered Recruitment Unit hosts Life Book Workshops several times throughout the year where foster children craft their own childhood scrap books with photos, awards, report cards, and other special mementos.  The Life Book Workshop held in March was also a big birthday party for the children.  

The GAL Project donated gift cards, art kits, books, and hats, gloves and scarves for every child in attendance.  The Child Centered Recruitment Unit celebrated the children's birthdays with cup cakes and ice cream.  GAL Russell Ezolt enjoyed the party with his wards who attended.  Beverly Torres, Senior Supervisor of the Unit, wrote, "Your generosity made all of the difference for the kids, and it is very much appreciated.  We also want to extend special thanks to Mr. Russell Ezolt for personally delivering the art kits and attending the workshop.  We were delighted that you could help us celebrate our youth in care and look forward to working with you again." 

The GAL Project thanks all of its generous sponsors and the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Foundation.  We extend very special thanks for making this event truly memorable for the children to Eli Ehrbar for his generous donations to our Books GALore Program; the students of Laurel School for their donation of hats, gloves and hand-knitted scarves; and Pat Catans for the art kits.

The Guardian ad Litem Project recently donated multiple copies of several book titles to the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center.  Vanetra Malone, Social Worker in the Detention Center, conducts reading groups with the youth ages 16 to 17 who are detained in her unit.  

Ms. Malone states, “The youth really enjoy reading.  They gain knowledge and improve their reading skills during their detention.  I choose books with subject matter they can relate to and with circumstances similar to their lives. I also try to introduce new reading material to the youth.”  Many of the book titles are autobiographies of men who have turned their lives around.  Ms. Malone plans to form reading groups with the other four housing units.

Due to the generosity of our program sponsor, the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Foundation, the Books GALore Program provides books to children of every age and reading level.  Many thanks to Chair of the Books GALore Program, Anne Southworth McFarland, who ensures that all children represented by Cuyahoga County's guardians ad litem receive interesting and educational books from their GALs.  McFarland is pictured above (right) with Guardian ad Litem Project Chair, Mary E. Bush, and Vanetra Malone.