So Joyful’s and Watchful’s mom has changed her mind and is going to plead guilty to criminal charges of child abuse. So they say. I want it to be true, but we can’t know for sure until she actually goes before the judge and enters her plea. We’ve got a little less than two weeks until she does so.
Why am I skeptical? Well, she originally confessed to the police and social workers. Then she changed her mind and decided to plead not guilty – despite her confession, despite physical evidence, despite having a record of child abuse, etc. At the last hearing in the child custody/foster care case, she was seeking to get the children back by alleging that signing up for parenting classes should suffice (not actually taking the classes, just signing up). It doesn’t seem that her approach to both her criminal and civil court cases follow logic.
The good news is that if mom pleads guilty to child abuse, 10-year-old Joyful and 8-year-old Watchful won’t need to testify in court. (Backstory on this at: Kids have to testify against parents.) They have the option of writing a victim impact statement, that would be read at sentencing. The statement helps the judge get a sense of how severely hurt the children were by their mom’s actions, which he can weigh into decisions on how long her jail time will be.
People involved in the kids’ case have varying thoughts about the children providing victim impact statements. Some feel that it would be damaging to the children in the long run – when they grow up they may realize that they had a part in putting mom behind bars and suffer feelings of guilt. Some feel it would be healing -the kids have been powerless to stop the abuse previously and now they could be empowered to help put an end to it.
As for my husband and I as foster parents? We really don’t get much of a say. We push back where we can where we feel it’s in the kids’ best interests. We tell the social workers, the GAL, the CASA, and the therapists how the children react to being asked to testify, or their strong desire for them mom to be behind bars forever, or their terror that in a year or two she will be out and able to hurt them again. We are speaking for the children who cannot speak for themselves, and as I type this, I realize that that really does count from something.