Formation of the Guardian ad Litem for Children Project
In 1975, amendments to O.R.C. 2151.281 and the Ohio Rules of Juvenile Procedure required the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem in all child abuse and neglect cases, as well as in other cases in which there was a parent/child conflict, where the child had no parent, where the parent was a minor or appeared to be mentally incompetent, or where appointment was otherwise necessary to insure a fair hearing.
Even then, although Ohio law did not require that a Guardian ad Litem be an attorney, Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court did, and still does require that a Guardian ad Litem or GAL be an attorney. As a result of these legislative and judicial mandates, in 1975, Cleveland's Federation for Community Planning organized the Council on Children at Risk to address the problems of child abuse and neglect in Cuyahoga County. The Council's legal committee, which included attorneys in private practice, social workers, the director of the Juvenile Court's Legal Department and attorneys from the Welfare Department's legal department, identified a serious problem in the juvenile court early in 1977. In 1976, the court heard about 300 child abuse and neglect cases. It had a pool of thirty (30) lawyers from which it could draw to represent the children. The list wa s dwindling, and the representation was becoming perfunctory. The Council decided to recruit and train one hundred (100) lawyers in private practice to serve children at risk as court-appointed Guardians ad Litem. (“Family Law“, TRIAL, April, 1980)
Thus, the Guardian ad Litem Project was created. The first orientation was held on February 20, 1978. The GAL Project continued sponsorship under the Federation for Community Planning and was funded by the George Gund Foundation for two years. As the GAL Project evolved, the general consensus became that the Guardian ad Litem Project's sponsorship should be transferred from the Federation to the Young Lawyer's Section of the Cuyahoga County Bar Association. The idea behind the transfer was that selection and training of court appointed counsel is properly a function of the Court and the local bar. The Cuyahoga County Bar Association sponsored the Guardian ad Litem Project since 1980. The GAL Project eventually secured its funding from Cuyahoga County in 1983.