The Trial, Part 3

If you haven't already, read these first- The Trial, Part 1 & The Trial, Part 2

I think it merits stating that I am glad for due diligence in any case where a parent's rights are being stripped away. This is a good thing. A case worker explained that a TPR ruling makes the birth parents legal strangers to their children. Whoa. That is a significant and heavy loss and is not something to take lightly.

Foster agencies do not arrive at the decision to pursue termination on a whim; attorneys do not file the motion light-heartedly. And, it is extremely important to realize, judges never create legal orphans (or "wards of the state") without a fair trial, during which birth parents are able to give a testimony and legal representation fights on their behalf.

That is good. 

It is not a decision to be brushed off or made without evidence, without a fight, and I am thankful there are laws and systems in place that make it unlikely for a TPR to happen haphazardly (although, unfortunately, not impossible because laws and systems and the people in them are not perfect).

We want birth mom to have her say. Yes, it is hard to sit and witness, but I cannot begin to imagine what it's like to be sitting in birth mom's seat. Each mistake is put on proud display by those whose goal is to prove your incompetence, neglect, negative patterns of behavior. To testify, say what you want the world to understand about you, your choices, your past... then have each word scrutinized, or pointed out as being contrary to evidence presented.

It is hard to sit through and hear, but it must be far harder to actually live

I'm ready for the day our girls are released from foster care and we can legally adopt them as our own, with full rights and privileges of being known as our daughters intact. But that does not dull the huge loss that must happen concurrently. It is not something to talk about flippantly, as if this is some checklist that we need to just finish. This is more significant, more life-altering- for all of us. It can't be glossed over.

The inefficiency and lack of urgency evident in the Kings County Family Court to creating permanency strips all dignity from the TPR process. This process is not fair for birth parents as they continue to live in limbo, with a carrot being hung too far out of reach to ever be attainable; yet while the carrot of being reunited with their children is still out there, they cannot make peace and move forward. The TPR should occur during one entire day or multiple concurrent days, if needed. That is standard practice throughout the rest of the country. But dragged out like this, an hour in court every few months? It is harmful and it is wrong.

Although I'm angry that we are still in this holding pattern, frustrated by the realities of the foster system and furious at the gall of the court to dredge this case through another 6 months (at least), let's keep the humanity of all involved at the forefront of our hearts as we discuss TPR trials. Let's let grace inform the way we think about and speak of all who are stuck in the foster care system- kids, parents, workers, attorneys, judges, all. Let's be angry at the brokenness of the system and angry at the need for foster care in the first place. But we must examine our anger and ensure it isn't misplaced on people who are desperately in need of love. Because beneath all the poor choices and generational patterns of behavior, there is a complex human who deserves to be seen and treated as such. 

Here's how court played out this week-

October 6- Two hours scheduled, but only the attorneys ever enter the courtroom. It is delayed, once again, by one person's excuse to miss. 

We received more dates, January 26 and February 9, in addition to the hour we already had scheduled for November 24. It's not comfortable, but there's no other option; we continue to wait.