Ask a Mentor: More on Continuing Relationships

Volunteer Question

In your last column you talked about continuing a relationship with the children after the case is closed, and in the discussion you mentioned the goodbye visit. I'm also about to end my first case and have been thinking about what to say in my last official visit. Would you mind talking further about that?

Mentor Answer

So much depends upon the age of the child/children. Much also depends on how long I have had the case and the strength of the relationship I have built with the children. When I arrange the visit time with the caregiver I usually mention that this will be the last visit and that I will talk with the children about it. Most likely the caregiver will say something to the children. If it is a very sensitive situation in which I think the children might be upset, I request the caregiver not to mention anything in advance—or I just don't tell the caregiver this will be my last visit.

Sometimes I take to the children an appropriate card, celebrating the fact that their lives have "settled down" and they are living in a safe, stable home. Depending upon their ages, I remind them of why the judge appointed me to be their special friend. Now that "things" seem to be okay for them the judge needs me to work with some other children who are still having problems. I stress, however, that even though I won't be making regular visits I will always be their friend and they can call me. Should they forget my phone number they can call the Guardian ad Litem office and someone will get in touch with me. I try to end on an upbeat tone such as asking, "what are you looking forward to next week?"

On the way home I find myself reflecting on these children, trying to pinpoint how I made a difference. I ask myself if there were times I would have done something differently. Did I get all of the information I needed and make all of the contacts that were important? And I definitely ask myself what I learned during this case that will help me to improve my advocacy for the children in my next case.

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