Jennifer J. Hostetter answers:
A GAL is not a social worker and the GAL’s role is very different from a social worker. Unlike a social worker, a GAL does not provide social services and direct assistance to children and families. The GAL’s role is to strictly conduct an investigation to determine what would be in the child’s best interests. The GAL can recommend services in the report to the court, but the GAL will not assist the parties in participating in those services.
Further, a GAL can communicate the child’s wishes to the court whereas a social worker may not be able to testify about things the child discussed with him or her. A social worker will not be considered a party to the case and will not be able to participate in court hearings. The GAL will attend and participate in court hearings. The GAL can present evidence and in some situations cross examine witnesses.