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Pavliga Works to Enhance Child Protection Programs in Portage County

August 16, 2021
Gail K. Pavliga News

State Rep. Gail Pavliga (R-Portage County) has been working with local officials to enhance the guardian ad litems (GALs) and court appointed special advocates (CASAs) programs in Portage County. Pavliga has been working to improve these programs to ensure the protection of children.

GALs are courted-appointed individuals that assist a domestic or juvenile court in determining what is in a minor’s or other court-designated parties’ best interest. GALS most often serve in dependency, neglect or abuse cases. CASAs are volunteers who have been trained to advocate for the best interest of a child who has been abused or neglected. Additionally, they work exclusively on cases involving children. 

Pavliga notes she has had several conversations with local officials to help improve on the shortage of GALs and CASAs, which are integral to the lives of many children.

“Through my work in the budget, with my bill and with conversations with local officials, we want to ensure those who protect our children are protected,” said Pavliga. “With a shortage of GALs and CASAs, I believe these increased efforts in protecting these individuals will help with that and by effect will put children’s best interests at the forefront in these cases.”

Pavliga’s bipartisan bill, under House Bill 226, makes it a first degree misdemeanor for someone to abuse, threaten, or harass a GAL or CASA in carrying out their court mandated duties for the protection of children across the state.

The legislation comes after Pavliga worked to include an amendment that was put into the state budget bill. The amendment increases appropriations for CASAs by $1.5 million for each fiscal year, $500,000 for administrative costs associated with CASA programs and includes another $1 million to establish CASA programs in areas of the state where they are not yet established.

Recently, NBC4 Columbus ran a story highlighting the issues children face surrounding threats against their GAL or CASA designees.

GALs and CASAs are advocates appointed by judges to determine what is in the best interest of a minor or adults subject to guardianship that do not have an attorney of their own.