January 15, 2017
Supportive families protect kids from harm and promote their well-being.Before joining GLAD late last year, I was a family lawyer for 12 years. My work in the Probate and Family Courts touched on all types of cases involving children and families throughout eastern Massachusetts. I saw a lot of inequity, trauma, and hopelessness. Judges from time to time appointed me as a guardian ad litem (GAL) to help kids. GALs can serve different purposes. Sometimes, GALs investigate what is happening in a child’s home and report back to the judge. Other GALs evaluate a youth’s home life and recommend what custody situation is in their best interests. Still other GALs advocate for youth, bringing the child’s voice into the courtroom. It was always a privilege and honor to serve as a GAL.
Families can make a huge, positive difference, connecting young people to their cultural, racial, ethnic and religious identities, communities and histories.Once, I was appointed a GAL to interview a 16-year-old about whether he wanted a name change. This was an unusual appointment because both of the youth’s parents agreed that the name change should happen. It should have been a slam dunk, but it wasn’t for the judge. He seemed to find something wrong with a youth wanting a boy’s name rather than a girl’s name. I should have never gotten the assignment, but I took it because I knew I could handle it respectfully. This young man had a tough road. His school wrongly identified him in a directory by his birth name. He was brutally physically assaulted by another student. Now, this judge was making him jump through unnecessary hoops just to change his name. The process should have been quick and easy, rather than strung out over months and with the family having to incur the expense and delay of a GAL. Despite all of this, his outlook was positive. He was excited about getting a driver’s license. He had a deep love for and bond with both of his parents, who were divorced. Unified in supporting their son, they were his best, truest and tireless advocates. They supported and loved him unconditionally.
I am privileged to work with and for youth so that every LGBTQ youth can experience that feeling of inclusion and connection in some way.I left that GAL experience with so much hope for this kid because of his special relationship with his family. Families can make a huge, positive difference, connecting young people to their cultural, racial, ethnic and religious identities, communities and histories. Supportive families protect kids from harm and promote their well-being. (Check out some great resources for families: Family Acceptance Project ) I was lucky to witness the power of family first hand with this youth and others. At GLAD, I am privileged to work with and for youth so that every LGBTQ youth can experience that feeling of inclusion and connection in some way.