March 11, 2009

It is hard to write about court because I have such mixed feelings about it.  On one hand, I think it is very necessary to have this as part of the checks and balances of the system.  I also think it is fascinating and am quickly finding that I really enjoy interacting with my attorneys and see some potential for personal relationships (I hope!) forming.  And it can be a great source of accountability.  I rarely have concerns about the job that I am doing, but it is nice to have a powerful, neutral party telling some of my parents the same thing that I have been telling them – get your stuff together – now!

Yet there are some horrible things about court.  My biggest complaint is that it is a time sucker.  This week and last week, I have had 3 court hearings during the week.  If there is a morning hearing, I am there at 8 am and usually leave around noon.  There is 4 hours that is not effectively used.  A huge frustration and typical cause of this is that defense attorneys do no contact their clients until we are at court, so I get to hang around as they finally talk to their clients.  Ugh.  And then, the courts are just congested and I typically just spend tons of time just sitting and waiting for my hearing.

Another frustration is the variability of the bench.  Rulings vary dramatically depending on who the hearing is in front of.  That doesn’t seem right.  And then, to really get me hot, sometimes the person on the bench has no clue about social work and services, but still orders ridiculous things to happen that are often not possible, and worse, not appropriate to the situation.  It is frustrating to be ordered to do something in my field by someone who is not experienced or trained in it.  It would be nice to be treated with some respect that would acknowledge that I may have more insight into a situation because it is my area of expertise – just like I would not tell a lawyer what would be the most appropriate legal action to take, because I am not a lawyer.  This seems to be more of a social issue, where society does not value the field of social work and somehow thinks that lay folks know as much or more than the professionals.  This is insulting.

Finally, most of the defense attorneys, I recognize are doing their job for similar reasons that I am: wanting to represent and protect the vulnerable.  Therefore, they are level-headed, respectful, and fair.  While I may not agree with them all of the time, I believe they are doing what they are because they have a basic foundation for social justice.  But there are some for which this is not the case.  They are bullies and they are greedy.  I am currently working with one of the few private attorneys (who has an awful reputation for bankrupting her clients – and I think it will happen in this case too) and I don’t know if I have met a more disrespectful person in my life.  I understand that attorneys need to present a strong case for their clients, but writing condescending emails and purposefully avoiding eye contact is unnecessary.  (BTW, being disrespectful to me is one of the quickest ways to getting on my sh*t list and my standards of “respect” are not necessarily that high).  I wonder if she knows what her reputation is and if and how that feeds into her demeanor.

Oh, and one final thing about court.  I have to dress up for court – nicer than if I was just in the office or doing home visits, and I am starting to run out of outfits.  I know this should indicate that I can go shopping, but I hate going shopping.  I just wish that I didn’t have that worry about what to wear so frequently!


Choosing a Forever Home

March 4, 2009

A big part of our job is to achieve permanency for our kids – which is especially important as I am in a “little kids” unit.  In recent years, there have been laws passed which has mandated that kids have a permanent plan in place within a certain time frame.  So this means that there is a big clock that starts ticking with parents and they need to get there stuff together before the time is up or I have petition for the parents’ rights to be terminated.

I have an 18 month year old whose mom has not been getting her stuff together and while he has been in a very good foster home, they are not willing or able to care for him for the next 16.5 years of his life.  So because I am going to have to have a petition filed to terminate the mom’s rights, I need to get this little guy into a home that can be permanent for him.

About 2 weeks ago, I contacted the placement desk asking for foster-to-adopt homes interested in an 18 month year old boy that may be a good fit.  I was flooded with home studies of lots of great families that are looking for and wanting to have a kid just like him join their family.  So somehow, I read all of the home studies and narrowed it down to my top choices that I thought would be a good fit for him.  I spoke to their social workers and gave them more information (including some scaring off by the amount of legal risk involved with this case).  This, and other reasons, narrowed down the choices to three.  My supervisor and I met with all three of the families so that we got a better sense of them and they got a better sense of this kid.

And now we have to choose a family.  This is ridiculously hard.  All three of the families are fantastic.  They are loving, stable, understand the risks and challenges ahead, and would be wonderful for this child.  And all really would love to have him.  And somehow, I am have to pick one.  There are differences between the families – kids vs no kids, etc – which I think makes them different not better or worse.  I can easily make the argument for why this child would be better off as the only child in the home (at least for awhile) vs. it would be great for him to have a sibling in the home.  Yet, a choice has to be made and I am wanting to make it sooner or later.  I know wherever he goes, he will do great, but that, unfortunately, is not making this process any easier for me.