A Guardian ad litem is not a therapist, social worker or mediator (although try telling the courts that!). What we are, in my jurisdiction, is an attorney appointed to advocate in the best interests of the child. We frequently work with pro se parents and grand parents who don't understand the court system or judicial procedure. It frequently falls upon us (often at the direction of the court) to somehow explain the process without giving legal advice or crossing the line from advocate for the child to counselor for the parent. We are called upon to mediate visitations, select therapists, give the bad news to a stubborn client who won't listen to his or her own attorney who is trying to make them understand that they are dead in the water. Young parents call us when their child is running a high temperature and they don't know what to do. Young wives call when their husband is not home, yet. Young men call us to try to get us to convince their mothers that they are old enough to have a job. Disentangling ourselves from inappropriate conversations is tricky since we don't want to embarrass the person who has over reached, we want to maintain an open relationship and at the same time, we need to keep enough distance and perspective to function as an attorney.
Today was a new one.
I got a call from a grandmother in a case that closed about six months ago. Seems the parent who had custody evicted the former spouse from the family home and had it up for sale. The house is currently vacant. The noncustodial parent and grandparent moved out and could not take their three cats and two dogs. They were leaving out food and water and were checking on the animals every other day. The custodial parent discovered the pets had been left at the home and insisted that they find homes for them. The custodial parent gave them a week to find homes and was going to call the ASPCA in one week if the pets were still there. The child in question loved the pets.
So anyway, Grandma wanted me to be able to file something to keep the custodial parent from calling the ASPCA because it would be "in the best interests of the child" not to lose the pets.
Well then. I explained to her that I just didn't see that I had a leg to stand on because I was no longer involved in the case and there was really no law that would keep the parent from calling the ASPCA. I suggested a rescue??? I'm sorry ma'am, but my hands are tied.
She cried. Clearly, she felt I was her last hope to save her beloved pets.
I know without a doubt that there is nothing I can do about this but, why do I feel so guilty?