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Bucks County Office of the Guardian Ad Litem

In the spring of 2000, the Pennsylvania Legislature passed Senate Bill 380 which amended Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law requirements for the registration of sexual offenders.  Unrelated to the registry issue, the bill contained a provision requiring the appointment of a guardian ad litem for every child petitioned to Dependency Court.  Governor Ridge signed the bill into law as Act 18 of 2000.  Subsequently, The Office of the Guardian Ad Litem was created later in 2000.  Act 18 is now codified at 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 6311, 6337 and Pa. R.J.C.P. 1151. 

The mission of the office is to provide zealous legal representation and social service advocacy to the dependent youth of Bucks County.  The attorneys are responsible for advocating a child’s best and legal interests in all Dependency Court proceedings.  The office is also committed to making sure no child falls between the cracks of the various court systems. 

The office is comprised of four full-time attorneys, two master’s level social workers and an office manager.  Each year, the office handles approximately 2000 cases in Dependency Court.  Cases are assigned to a specific lawyer and social worker at inception.  The lawyer and social worker team the case until conclusion.  The continuity of one lawyer and one social worker builds a strong bond of trust between the lawyer/social worker and client.  The same GAL attorney/social worker team will stay together with a client until the client returns home, is adopted or ages out of the child welfare system.  Routine hearings handled include, but are not limited to, emergency placements, shelter care hearings, dependency hearings, permanency review hearings, status hearing, modification hearings and judicial reviews.  The lawyers and social workers address placement concerns, medication, special education, trauma and treatment, truancy and the specific issues of older youth.  The lawyer and social worker conduct home visits with the child, interview witnesses, attend all meetings related to a child’s welfare and specific concerns and make a recommendation to the court as to the child’s best interest and legal interest.

In addition to representing all dependent children in Bucks County, the Office of the Guardian Ad Litem also receives appointments from Family Court and Criminal Court in limited circumstances where the court believes it is in a child’s best interest to have an independent lawyer.  Lastly, the Office of the Guardian Ad Litem also represents all Special Juvenile Immigration Status cases. 

Bucks County Office of the Guardian Ad Litem
Lisa Ann Horne, Esq., Director
Bucks County Administration Building
55 E. Court St., 7th Floor
Doylestown, PA 18901
Telephone: (215) 340-8619