Photo Credit: www.weisspaarz.com.
Today, I attended our foster child’s first court date. I honestly had no idea what to expect, or what would occur. I can’t remember the legal term they used, but basically this hearing was to transfer legal guardianship of our foster child to the county within which we will serve as the resource family for her. I wasn’t sure who all would be there- birth parents? Family? I didn’t know if I would meet any of them, or if there would be an uncomfortable confrontation.
Every case is different. In our case the most uncomfortable part of the day was the wait- court was running behind so we sat waiting at the court house for almost an hour before our names were finally called.
To protect the privacy of our specific foster child’s case I am not going to share any of those details, but more so about the experience as a whole at Juvenile Court with a foster child.
Sitting in the waiting room was interesting. The room was filled with people- children, birth parents, foster parents, a couple that I’m guessing was a kinship relationship because they looked to be grandparents age holding a baby. There was a room filled with social workers who worked for the county representing each of the people sitting in the waiting room. Attorneys, and security guards were also in the mix. Our social worker from our foster agency was there for support for me.
I tend to be a very intuitive person. I can feel emotions from other people across a room in a very heavy way, and I find it hard to sometimes shake off these feelings. One family came out of the court room after obviously hearing bad news- mom was in almost hysterical tears, her kids running after her, dad (or whom I presumed was dad) was spouting off lots of angry words and eventually had to be removed to go outside. A father and teenage daughter sat off to one side, and entered the waiting area in somewhat good spirits, but eventually I saw tears and muffled arguing from the daughter, and the rest of their interaction was spent on opposite ends of the couch with backs turned to one another.
When it was our turn to go into the court room, our girl started to get clingy which I have learned is one of her coping mechanisms for when she is anxious or scared. She started to walk really slowing with me, and was very hesitant to enter the court room. I had to remind myself that this is the first time she has ever even been in a court room like this unlike a foster child who has been in care for quite sometime and this is now their norm. Which is another sad story in and of itself…up until about a month ago my kids had never even seen in the inside of a court room because this is not most kids norm…it shouldn’t be any kids norm. We were only in one at the time because we attended our friends adoption hearing.
As I led her toward the judge, and the large group of people waiting at the front of the room, they were all very encouraging to her, and gave her some candy which seemed to win her over. As I sat down, I saw her turn to look at me…to make sure I was still there….how can I already be her constant…her source of comfort after only 9 days with me….it’s just messed up. No one from her family was present.
We were dismissed from the courtroom very shortly after entering. I was grateful for this….I really didn’t want her to hear all the details, or have to think about all the weighted adult things they were going to talk about. My social worker came out shortly after to brief me on their discussion. I didn’t really find out anything new. There is another date next week we are to attend that will discuss all the details- what the birth parents have to do to regain custody, our role, her progress in our home, etc. That meeting is called a “Full Disclosure Meeting.” (for anyone here who is trying to educate themselves on the process- part of my hopes in sharing this is to bring some light to things that are rarely discussed about foster care to make it not seem so scary, since there are so many unknowns to a new foster parent).
As I sat and spoke with my social worker the tears came….the heaviness of the whole thing just came crashing down….not a single person from our foster child’s family showing up, the upset parents in the waiting room whose children ran out after them crying, the broken communication between the dad and teenage daughter….a bunch of kids forced to be in a room that they shouldn’t even know exists due to adults bad choices that they now have to have consequences from for things they didn’t even do.
One of the things I am very grateful for that came out of today is more empathy.
Empathy for these kids who need security, and safe places to be…to have a stable life instead of living in limbo and being in constant fight or flight.
Empathy for our foster child as we try to figure out how to attach to a child backwards than our own biological children…it’s no easy task, and in many ways feels like loving out of duty before actual feelings of love come, but today….today brought more compassion to fight for her.
Fight for her right to just be a kid, and not have the knowledge of grown up problems in a 7 year olds body.
Fight to help her have a voice that she has always deserved to have even if she wasn’t given one before.
This bible verse from Proverbs 31 kept going through my head all day:
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.”