"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Monday, March 2, 2009

Winter Needs to Cut It Out

We got socked with snow and by 6:00 this morning, there was about 6 inches on the ground. By 9:00 a.m., three more had fallen. As you might imagine, Pearl was enchanted. Husband worked at home and says they played out in the snow all day.

They hadn't cleared the streets but court was not cancelled so I spent nearly two hours on the road getting to the courthouse and was one of only several people who showed up. I couldn't leave to come home between morning and afternoon court so the day was pretty much an inefficient waste of time since no one showed up for afternoon court, either. Grrrr.

There are a number of different types of cases to which you can be assigned as a guardian ad litem and I've recently gotten a slew of abuse and neglect matters. If social services takes a child into foster care, it is a "removal" case. Typically, these are abuse cases such as significant drug or physical abuse or sexual abuse. If they leave the child in the custody of the parents but want them to do such things as take anger management classes or parenting classes, they ask for a protective order which allows the court to put a parent in jail IF they don't comply. Essentially, the court would find them in contempt.

In my jurisdiction, they typically don't appoint a guardian ad litem for a child who has been the victim of a crime. That does not mean there isn't some overlap. For example, I could be appointed as guardian ad litem for a child who was raped by her mother's boyfriend and social services stepped in. No one is going to go to jail in the social services case unless they violate some sort of court order.

However, in that exact same situation, the boyfriend could also be criminally charged with rape and be facing significant jail time. They wouldn't appoint the child a guardian ad litem but as a practical matter, I often end up working with the prosecutor to help prepare the child to testify and/or sit with the child in the criminal trial. They also have witness advocates for that but in my jurisdiction, since I have an ongoing relationship with some of the kids, I am regularly included. I make it a practice in cases like that to visit the prosecutor to give what information I can ethically provide to help them prosecute.

One of my newest cases is a darling, DARLING little eight year old rape victim. She is the cutest thing since Pearl. The abuser, the mother's boyfriend, is still on the lam and the case has received a lot of media attention which makes things for this shy little girl all the more horrific. I suspect this is one of those cases that is going to be particularly ugly. The father is using the situation to try to wrest custody so while the child is going through all this criminal stuff, she will also be the football in a contentious custody battle.

I have a second social services case where a 12 year old reported that her father got drunk and molested her. I am certain this happened but he told her he'd get twenty years if she testified. Her mother told her that they put her in jail for 12 years for lying. Her siblings told her they hated her for what she was claiming. While she was waiting to go testify, I overheard the mother hissing at her daughter to "quit hanging on me!" Yes, she said this to her 12 year old who was five minutes away from having to testify about sexual abuse, under oath, in a room full of strangers, many of whom were men. I sat with the child and suspected she'd change her story but you can always hope that the oath and the judge's black robe might make a difference. But, it was not to be. She lied through her teeth and they had to dismiss the charges. She was in tears when she left with her dad. Not a thing I could do.

The mother was incensed that the child had sassed her, that morning.

I have another case with a failed Russian adoption. The child has fetal alcohol syndrome and is extremely violent as a result of organic brain damage. Amazingly, he does not have reactive attachment disorder, which is so common with international adoptions, but he is still a child impossible to parent in the home. Single mom, no significant family support, health issues of her own.

Makes me so grateful for my own children who are wonderful, healthy and the lights of my life. Even more than Evelyn and Pearl, hard as that is to believe.

Check out the counter on the right hand side of the blog. 1500 days to return home to Oklahoma. I plan to be back much sooner than that although I might be commuting back and forth to be with husband.

I am looking forward to taking the better part of a week off later this month to attend long arm quilting classes in North Carolina. I just hate to leave Pearl and Co., and also will have some challenges to juggle work that week. But I know I will learn a lot and am really excited about going and making new friends.


South Jersey Quilter said...

Tell us about the NC classes! Where, when,who!


Thearica said...
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