Children & Young People
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Check out our Jargon Buster – this will help you understand some of the phrases used.
NIGALA – Who They Are and What They Do
NIGALA stands for the Northern Ireland Guardian Ad Litem Agency, but we use NIGALA because it is much shorter and easier to say.
We work with children and young people in family court cases (specified public law and adoption proceedings). We make sure that your voices are heard and decisions are taken in your best interests.
The Guardian ad Litem (guardian or GAL) is a qualified social worker who is an officer of the court. They are employed by NIGALA and are independent of the Health & Social Care Trust (HSCT). The guardian has been asked by the Judge in the court to find out about you and your wishes and feelings, so they can tell the court what YOU want. They will come to see you and listen to what you want, where you want to live and, who you would like to keep in touch with, how you feel about the way things are, and what you would like to happen.
The guardian will speak to the people who look after you, including members of your family like your mum or dad, and if they are around, grandparents and aunties/uncles. If you are living with foster carers, the guardian will talk to them as well. The guardian will also talk to your social worker, your teacher and anyone else who you think is an important person in your life.
They will come to see you and listen to what you want, where you want to live and, who you would like to keep in touch with, how you feel about the way things are, and what you would like to happen.
The Judge listens to what everyone has to say and then makes a decision about what they think is best for YOU.
Every child and young people will have a Solicitor appointed to represent them in (specified) proceedings. The guardian will speak to the Solicitor for you. The Solicitor looks after your legal rights.
The Court is a building where the Judge works.
All hearings are heard in the Court and this is where the Guardian, Solicitors and Social Worker meet with the Judge to discuss what is best for you.