Guardians Ad Litem are appointed by judges in child care proceedings under Section 26 of the Child Care Act, 1991. The role and function of a Guardian ad litem is to inform the court of the child’s views and to advise the court of what, in the Guardian Ad Litem's professional opinion, is in the best interests of the child.
The 1991 Act obliges Tusla, the Child and Family Agency to pay costs (fees, travel, and legal representation) incurred by Guardians ad litem in the performance of their functions and otherwise gives it no role.
I am advised that there are in the region of seventy-five Guardians Ad Litem operating in the Courts at present. Guardians ad litem are not employed by Tusla. The report of the Child Care Law Reporting Project suggested that Guardians Ad Litem are appointed in 53% of child care proceedings nationally. The report found that in the Dublin Metropolitan District, Guardians Ad Litem were appointed in almost 70% of proceedings, while in Galway, the appointment rate was as low as 13%.
During 2017, Guardians Ad Litem were paid €7.67m in fees by Tusla, while in 2018 €8.44m was paid. Legal fees incurred by Guardians Ad Litem amounted to a further €6.33m in 2017 and €6.21m in 2018.
Work on the reform of Guardian ad Litem arrangements is underway. In December 2017, the Government approved the establishment of a new national Guardian ad litem service within an executive office of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs
The Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2019, which is close to publication, includes a presumption in favour of the appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem for all children in child care proceedings.
It will also provide for the establishment of an executive office within my Department, which will employ Guardians ad litem and also establish a panel of Guardians Ad Litem who will provide services as independent contractors.