Major Court Drama

We walked into the court room, slipping into our seats behind Joyful and Watchful’s dad and lawyer. To our right, the GAL and county lawyer stood in the middle of the room. Furtherest away was their mom and her lawyer. Little did I know that drama was about to unfold.

The children’s lawyer (aka guardian ad litem or GAL) alleged that the county is not appropriately supervising visits, which has allowed horrible things such as emotional abuse, violations of court protective orders, and witness tampering to occur. Naturally, this pissed off the county lawyer who felt embarrassed and thrown under the bus in front of the judge. Apparently, she’s been telling the GAL this is a personnel issue that should be dealt with through human resources. The GAL countered that the county has had time to remedy the situation and has not, so it must be brought before the judge in order to best protect the children. So the county foster care agency was in hot water with the judge.

But they weren’t the only ones in the judge’s crosshairs. One of the parents was accused of taking advantage of the county’s missteps, and abusing/violating protective orders/tampering with witnesses when social workers were either not present or when a substitute social worker was supervising visits. Their lawyers alleged that this was a cultural misunderstanding, but I don’t think anyone’s buying that argument.

And the third party that the judge was angry with? The psychiatrist who evaluated the parents nearly four months, but hasn’t typed up and handed in reports to the county or the court.

We also learned that not a single one of the relatives that the county has approached have stepped forward as possible new homes for Watchful or Joyful. How could people walk away from their own family like that – these are little kids just 10, 8 and 4 years old!

The judge laid out a boat load of actions that must be taken within 10 days or various people will be held in contempt. He also has suspended all visits until further notice.

The upshot is that the foster parents of the kids involved (us + another family) are being called in as witnesses next week.

So, how does one keep a good working relationship with social workers if you’re being asked to testify about their negligence? How do you “bridge the gap” and maintain relationships with the parents if you’re testifying against them, too?

The GAL is coming to our house to chat in a few hours. This is all very bizarre.

Guilty of Child Abuse

So the kids’ mom pled guilty to criminal child abuse this week.  Now what?

Originally, she had confessed, but then had retracted her statement.  Then she said that it was just the one time abuse of one child.  But since the kids were going to testify, she changed her plea to guilty of abusing both kids consistently and regularly over the past four years.   Yes, FOUR years.  Essentially, she agreed that she had been abusing the kids since social services had stopped making follow up visits from the last time she was convicted of child abuse.

Sentencing won’t be for another couple of months.  And the county still has the plan to return the kids home to dad.  So not a whole lot has changed in our day to day life.

But 8-year-old Watchful is so relieved that his mom told the truth.  Now, he feels validated.  Everyone has to believe him now.  (Though with the physical evidence and past history, everyone knew it was true.)  And 10-year-old Joyful is really hopeful that mom will have a long jail time.  If mom’s in jail, she and her brother are safe.

The State attorney had wanted the kids to testify and it’s their statements to the prosecution and their willingness to testify which changed this from a charge of more minor crime with a shorter sentence, to a crime that fit the truth and came with a longer sentence.  The therapists had been against the kids testifying.  But I am glad that we had the kids talk to the attorney.  Now they have justice, or at least something closer to justice (can there ever be justice for abusing kids their whole lives?).  And while mom is in jail, the kids will be a whole lot safer for a whole lot longer.

At this point, the State attorney wants the kids to write victim impact statements.  Again, the therapists are against it.  The therapists worry about the emotional burden of having been part of mom’s imprisonment.  But what about the emotional burden of worrying that mom will eventually get out of jail and come and get you?  That’s what happened last time.  Mom served time, got out, the county stopped following the case after a while, and mom started beating the kids again.  How relieved the kids would be if they didn’t have to worry about seeing mom for a very, very long time.  The victim impact statement could help persuade the judge to give a longer sentence, or to make the sentences consecutive rather than concurrent.

The kids would also be able to speak their truth and be heard.  Doesn’t that count for something?