A CPS court hearing has many unique people involved, including: the Department of Family and Protective Services (“CPS” or “The Department”), their attorney (“District Attorney” or “County Attorney”), the Guardian Ad Litem (“GAL”), the Attorney Ad Litem (“AAL”), the parents and their attorneys, and the foster parents.
The Department of Family and Protective Services (“CPS” or “The Department”) is the State Agency that is responsible for protecting abused and neglected children. In CPS Court, they are the “Petitioner” because they are the ones who initiate the lawsuit. The Department is represented by an attorney, typically referred to as the District Attorney “DA”, or County Attorney “CA”. Sometimes, the Department is represented by regional attorney that work directly for the State Agency.
The Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is the court-appointed guardian of the child. The GAL is appointed by the court to advocate for the child’s best interest. In many counties in Texas, the GAL is also known as the CASA Volunteer (Court Appointed Special Advocate). A CASA is a trained volunteer who signs up specifically to advocate for children in the child welfare system.
The Attorney Ad Litem (AAL) is the attorney for the child or children. The AAL is court-appointed to advocate for the child’s desires. Typically, the AAL and the GAL are aligned because what the child wants is the same as what is in the child’s best interest. In those situations, one person may sometimes serve the role of both GAL and AAL (this typically happens with young children). In older children, or some unique situations, the GAL and AAL may not be aligned because the child wants something that may not be in the child’s best interest.