When a Colorado county department of human and social services suspects that a child is the victim of abuse or neglect, it may bring a civil action to court. The judge overseeing the case may then appoint a guardian ad litem to the case to determine its validity.
The role of guardian ad litem is strictly to represent the best interests of the child. In dependency and neglect cases, it will look for evidence that supports one or several accusations. The Colorado Office of the Child’s Representative details the types of actions it considers dependency and/or neglect.
Dependency and neglect
An accusation of dependency or neglect is serious in the state of Colorado and could drastically affect a person’s parental responsibilities (which is how Colorado law refers to custody). When investigating these types of cases, the GAL will look for evidence that one or more of the following types of allegations are true:
- A parent or guardian abuses, mistreats or abandons a child or another child within the home
- A parent or guardian tolerates the mistreatment or abuse of the child by another person to continue, or fails to intervene with said treatment
- A parent or guardian has created an unsafe environment for the child
- A parent or guardian fails to provide proper care for the child and/or a home
- A parent or guardian fails to provide the child with appropriate education, subsistence, medical care or other types of care necessary for the child’s guidance, health or well-being
- The previous neglect or abuse by a parent or guardian caused the death of another child
If a child has a controlled substance in his or her bloodstream at birth, the courts may consider him or her dependent. If a child runs away from home due to lack of control on the parent or guardian’s part, the courts may consider him or her neglected.
The GAL’s role
When a court appoints a guardian ad litem to a case, the GAL must perform a thorough investigation into the allegations. The investigation must include a personal interview with the child; a period of observation of the child’s interaction with the parent or proposed guardian; a review of relevant records, court files, reports and documents; an interview with relevant people in the child’s life; an interview with the respondent parents; and, if necessary, a home visit.