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In a DSS abuse and neglect case, when the treatment plan is resolved, should the guardian ad litem have an opinion on the merits?

I have mediated a couple of DSS abuse and neglect cases recently in which the treatment plan was resolved (that is, everyone agreed what the defendant(s) needed to do to resume contact or custody of the children at issue) but in which the merits (that is, whether or not the defendant(s) had abused or neglected the children at issue) had not yet resolved.

In both these cases the guardian ad litem had a position on the merits issue.  In one case the guardian’s position helped resolve the dispute; in the other it hindered resolution of the dispute.  However, I raise more basic queries: If the treatment plan is resolved, how does the issue of whether a child has been abused or not impact the best interests of the child?  And, if it does not impact the best interests of the child, should the guardian have an opinion on the merits?

These questions are not posed to be cheeky.  There may be philosophical reasons that a guardian’s opinion in these circumstances is relevant to a child’s best interests.  There may reasons that a guardian’s opinion on the merits should be expressed even if it does not impact the child’s best interests.  But if any thoughtful person has some ideas on these issues, I’d love to hear them.

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