Since 1979, CIP has worked towards its goal of a safe and permanent home for every child in Connecticut that began with a study of the foster care system. In 1977, Volunteer court monitors reviewed court records for every child who had been committed to the state, and the information they collected was devastating. Connecticut children who had been placed in foster homes at birth with little or no contact with biological parents were still in foster care after a dozen or more years. The average length of stay in foster care was over five years, and the greater the number of placements, the more likely was the child to be referred to as delinquent upon entering adolescence.
The judges of the Juvenile Court unanimously agreed to begin monitoring cases until a permanent placement was secured for each child, but lack of experience and staff made it difficult to meet this commitment. Out of this need arose CIP’s current model of recruiting volunteers and training them to serve as volunteer advocates or Guardians Ad Litem (GALs).
In 1980, CIP began monitoring in the Hartford Superior Court for Juvenile Matters; nine courts were covered by 1992; and presently, CIP’s approximately two hundred volunteers serve abused children in ten of Connecticut’s eleven juvenile courts and many of the probate courts as well. CIP has trained hundreds of volunteers and represented thousands of children in the Connecticut court system.
Volunteer advocates/GALs are specifically recognized in federal law for their representation of children, and the American Bar Association, the country’s largest professional organization of attorneys, officially endorses the use of CIP volunteers to work with attorneys to speak for abused and neglected children in court. This program is supported by national organizations, departments, advocacy groups, national leaders, and the President of the United States. CIP’s stellar reputation is credited to the fact that volunteers are well-trained, are not burdened with heavy caseloads, and can provide detailed attention to one case at a time.
Children in Placement’s GALs are an independent voice whose sole allegiance is to speak up for the child’s best interests while monitoring safety and ushering the child through a complicated system to promote their positive development.