Salisbury native John Carlton makes a difference in children’s lives as Guardian ad Litem

  • Posted: Sunday, April 28, 2013 12:24 a.m.
John Carlton
John Carlton

John Carlton might seem to some to be your average Rowan County citizen, but as a supervisor for Guardian ad Litem, I know he is far from average.

Carlton, a Salisbury native, has been a volunteer with the Rowan County Guardian ad Litem program for the past four years. The Guardian ad Litem program trains volunteers to independently investigate child abuse and neglect cases that are heard in court. Volunteers assigned to cases make recommendations about the children’s best interests to the judge presiding over the case.

“Children do not ask to be brought into this world,” Carlton said.

“All children are equal but some don’t get the same opportunities as others. What I like about the Guardian ad Litem program is that we have a chance to see that abused and neglected children get the same opportunities other children get to be successful in life. Every child should have the same opportunity to have a happy childhood. Guardian ad Litems get to do that,” Carlton said.

Volunteers undergo a personal interview, a 30-hour training program and must have a criminal and sex offender background check. There are no special degrees necessary to become a Guardian ad Litem.

Carlton is a man dedicated not only to making his corner of the world a better place, but also to ensuring that the abused and neglected children he represents in the Guardian ad Litem program have their voices heard in the courtroom. He cares deeply about these children and seeing to it that their cases are fairly represented.

Volunteers do not always recommend what a child wants in a case because the outcome may not be in the child’s best interest. The Guardian does, however, make the child’s wishes known to the judge.

Our volunteers are just like most everyone in Rowan County in that they may have children, grandchildren and hobbies or jobs. Some are retired, stay-at-home moms, teachers and college professors. All of them have a heart for children and a desire to make a difference in their lives as well as the community.

Carlton has seen a lot of changes in the city and the local justice system in his lifetime. His father, Kern Carlton, was a longtime Salisbury attorney, as is cousin Graham Carlton. Kern Carlton’s portrait hangs inside the Rowan Superior Courtroom.

John Carlton remembers well the four child fatalities that took place in 1997 that caused close scrutiny of the Rowan County Department of Social Services. Having several years experience coordinating efforts for children’s services with the department has shown Carlton that Child Protective Services now has procedures in place that better ensure children are protected.

“DSS does not get the credit they should,” Carlton said “The media will give them bad publicity when it seems they don’t do their job but they are doing great things and have dedicated social workers.”

John attended Pfeiffer College and went on to graduate from the University of Texas with a degree in sociology. He began working summers at Norman’s of Salisbury, a local well-known custom drapery and bedspread manufacturer that was located on Main Street.

He eventually was promoted to plant manager with Norman’s at its manufacturing plant in Grand Prairie, Texas. After 18 years in Texas, Carlton returned to Salisbury where he became a production supervisor with Frito-Lay and later went to work for Freightliner. Carlton has been a deacon at First Baptist Church for 12 years and has served twice as chairman. He is a 20-year veteran of the National Guard in North Carolina and Texas.

Carlton has six children; all but one lives locally. He spends his spare time “tracking’ his eight grandchildren. He likes to hunt turkey, ducks and geese and claims to have a good “pot hole on the river.” Carlton likes to fish for crappie and enjoys playing golf.

Carlton wants to advocate for abused and neglected children and make a difference in their lives. He is making a difference in Rowan County.

Lissa Pence is a supervisor for Guardian ad Litem in Rowan County. For more information about the Guardian ad Litem Program, visit or call 704-639-7517.

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