Helping Hands feature for Jan. 8

  • Wednesday, January 8, 2014

  • Updated Wednesday, January 8, 2014 5:40 am

Photo provided

RONALD

BYRD

Guardian ad Litem coordinator for Georgetown County

Bio:

Native of Severna Park, Md.

Pawleys Island resident

Graduated from University of Baltimore Law School

Former assistant stateís attorney in Baltimore City

Retired from Constellation Energy as senior counsel

What is Guardian ad Litem?

Ad Litem means ďfor purposes of the legal action.Ē

South Carolinaís Guardian ad Litem is a state-funded organization of volunteers who represent the needs of abused or neglected children in court.

We recruit, train and mentor volunteers appointed by the court to essentially be their voice in court.

Kids donít usually go to court hearings, so the volunteer acts as a bridge between the judge and the child.

Volunteers become a consistent presence in the life of a child until the child reaches some permanent living arrangement.

Studies indicate that 95 percent of children who have the benefit of Guardian ad Litem donít languish in foster care.

For more information, people can visit http://scgal.org.

How can people become volunteers for Guardian ad Litem?

We are always looking for volunteers and our volunteers are men and women from all walks of life.

You donít have to be a lawyer to be a volunteer.

Many of our best volunteers are retired.

Qualifications for volunteers include being 21 years or older, having a desire to help children and passing certain background checks.

Volunteers are typically asked to give four to six hours a month of their time, depending on circumstances.

They go to the home, talk to the child, foster parents, biological parents, school officials including teachers and guidance counselors, medical people, and people with the Department of Social Services (DSS).

Volunteers can represent more than one child.

What training do volunteers receive?

We provide 30 hours of training to each volunteer.

Training covers all aspects of the volunteer experience.

If anyone is interested in becoming a volunteer, they can e-mail me at rbyrd@oepp.sc.gov, or call 843-436-7030.

How did you get involved with Guardian ad Litem?

I started out as a volunteer when I first came down here.

I really enjoyed meeting and interacting with the children I was assigned and I got a really great sense of accomplishment conveying to a judge what the childís needs and wants might have been.

As a lawyer, I have always believed in due process.

To me, helping a foster child who has no other voice in the court room is the ultimate due process.

My inspiration for this comes from the fact that my wife and I have two adopted twin daughters.

They have really inspired me and taught me that every child has great potential, that every child is worth fighting for.

Can you tell me about your family?

My wife, Lissa, was a registered nurse in Maryland.

Our twin daughters are 21.

Sydney is a senior at James Madison University in Virginia and Shelby is a senior at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

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