“Blue” is Back

February 8, 2009

The first case I worked on when starting this job was with Blue.  She is a mom with mental health (personality disorders) issues and three kids.  I was not the social worker for the case, I just started out helping out with visits, etc.  Well, my coworker that had the case transferred and because I knew the case the best, I inherited the case.  The other worker had the oldest child move with his dad out of state and the middle child live with father in town.  So I have stepped in as we have been trying to figure out permanency for the youngest (now 18 months).

We had been trying with great effort to figure out if this little guy could live with relatives.  There were some great logistical issues we were contending with adn just when it seemed that we had figured out a plan, the father backed out and stated that he (and his family) would be unable to take him.

We (me, the CASA, my supervisor, previous workers, and the courts) do not see Blue as a viable option for this little guy, so I am now charged with finding him a home.  At the end of the week and this weekend, I have been reading home studies of families that are interested in fostering, then adopting kids.  A home study is a lengthy document written by a social worker that makes sure that a family is suitable to foster or adopt kids.  I am reading about 20 that have been sent to me in search of one that I think will be a good match.  I am currently narrowing it down and then will ask for some assistance from my coworkers to pick a family.

How crazy is that?!?  I am making huge life-changing decisions for a number of people here.  I am taking comfort in knowing that this kid will probably do well in whatever home he goes to.  But it still is a little strange and I don’t know if it will really sink in until I meet with some families or transition him to his new home.

And then, of course, is Blue.  In court on Tuesday, it will become official that we are changing the permanent plan to adoption.  And I will need to make a referral to my attorney’s office file a petition to terminate her rights (dad is willing to relinquish).  I imagine that she will be very upset and will fight the termination very hard.  I am not looking for a lengthy trial.

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My First Trial

February 1, 2009

I knew this was going to happen, but I was still dreading it.  One of my cases going to trial.  Essentially cases go to trial when we (the Dept. and the parents) cannot come to an agreement on a legal proceeding, usually for dependency or termination of parental rights.  In this case, the parents of my shaken baby are not agreeing to dependency on their newest child that we removed at birth.

The Dept. (and I) are of the opinion that these parents seriously injured a child, have not admitted to it or the gravity of her injuries, and have not participated in the services they agreed to to address their “parental deficiencies”.  So we are going to trial.  This is a pretty nerve-wracking experience.  My lawyer has been prepping everything for the trial and calling the past social workers, who of course come to me and ask what is going on.  They are all going to be called as witnesses, as will I.  So I have been going over all of my case records and remembering what I did on the case over time (which is really hard!) and trying to mentally prepare myself to be cross-examined.  It is hard not to have pictures of Law & Order or A Few Good Men go through your head and not wonder how you will do or if they will break you.  I hope not!

And scheduling is a huge pain, because I have to be at the trial the entire time, which means I cannot do anything on my other cases, so I am trying to get colleagues to cover my other hearings and trying to make sure that I have nothing majorly pressing on my other cases.

So I was originally told that trial was to start on Monday, 1/26, but wouldn’t know for sure until after the case scheduling conference that happened the Thursday afternoon before.  I then learned that it would happen downtown in a different courthouse and start on Tuesday.  So I am all prepped for Tuesday until one of the parent’s attorneys asks for a one-day continuance due to illness, which everyone agrees to (although he still works and is in hearings for other cases – whatever).  So I dry clean my one suit and haul the case files on a bus and go downtown Wed. morning.  Most of us are ready but the parents are 30 minutes late, which is typical of them.  Unfortunately, so is one of our translators, and we cannot proceed without her.  I am in charge of scheduling translators (yep, along with everything else) and I would have been worried about not doing something correctly, if it wasn’t that I spoke to her personally on Monday to inform her about Tuesday’s continuance.  I call, no answer.  We all wait and wait and wait.  I am pissed because this makes me look bad.  She finally arrives 2 hours late! because she had double-booked.  Fortunately, the judge lays into her a bit, so I do not have to.  And we start trial.

Except we don’t.  The parents’ attorneys ask for a continuance because we just received a psych report on the dad and they want more time to review it.  The lawyers (all three!) have the most long-winded arguments I have ever heard.  Why isn’t there a time limit on them?  Seriously, they need to get more concise!

The judge grants their motion and we are delayed for about a month (although with some meetings in between).  And it was probably the right decision, as they probably do need time to review the report.  And it was nice for me to go back to the office and be able to work on stuff without anything scheduled.  And maybe this will increase our chances of having the case settle, which would just be so much easier.  But what a stressful process!