Stream of consciousness on being a Witness

This post deserves an update - because as I have stated these stories do not end. You may also want to reference this partially related rant for background.

I received a subpoena to appear in Family Court regarding the case linked to above and I sat, dutifully, waiting to be called in. I was a little surprised to receive the subpoena because my documentation excoriated the Child Protection system as much as it did the family. Still, if someone actually wanted to hear me tell a story I was more than willing to do the telling.

My faith in these court hearings is minimal - I have been to some and had the defense attorney make fools of CPS and been to others where the children were removed from the family home as was appropriate. The problem is that you never know what you are going to hear and see before they start.

Rules of evidence are tricky - and at the same time I appreciate their complexity. I really do hate the concept of an oppressive state that can remove your freedoms but at the same time I know that sometimes it is necessary. My last two rules of evidence issues have been frustrating - I think I referenced one in here about a child handing over a dime bag of pot to one of my therapists. When the police and CPS reports came across my desk they stated that the bag allegedly contained "leafy vegetable material." That was pretty funny - I mean, it made it sound like the therapist couldn't tell the difference between pot and a bag of Dole Classic Salad Blend. Whatever.

Anyway, I was going to be a witness again. I had not seen the child in about six months - the parents had threatened to move out of the county and around that time the kids were placed in a foster home and a center-based program - this effectively removed them from my caseload. As I waited I thought about what I observed and what I was concerned about - I wanted to be prepared for whatever questions I was going to be asked.

It is hard to sit in a Family Court waiting room. The environments tend to be a little sterile - mostly plain walls and mostly plain styled wooden chairs. There is always an opening in the wall with a sliding glass panel where you are supposed to check in. There is usually a bespectacled County worker who tends to avoid acknowledging people's presence at the window for the first few minutes that they are standing there. When they do acknowledge the person they tend to look over their glasses and down their noses. I wonder if they get training to all do it the same way.

When people get called in before the Judge the bespectacled worker screams the names really loudly: "JOHN DOE. AND JANE DOE. PLEASE ENTER THE COURTROOM. REMOVE YOUR COATS AND TURN OFF YOUR CELLPHONES BEFORE ENTERING THE COURT." I think that every person whose case is called hates the fact that their name is screamed out loud by Bespectacled Court Worker.

So there were people who had scheduled appearances before the case I was there to testify for. One young couple (JOHN DOE and JANE DOE) went in at the same time. JOHN had a lawyer and JANE didn't. After disappearing behind the Court doors for a few minutes JANE burst out of the room with tears in her eyes. A few minutes later JOHN came out with his lawyer - who asked him to check if JANE had gone. JOHN looked around the room and flippantly remarked, "I guess JANE flew the coop." JOHN did not have tears in his eyes.

I mention all this because I think it is important that the walls and furniture be somewhat stark and hard because there is just too much sadness and pathology in those waiting rooms, and it wouldn't be a good thing if any of it seeped into the walls or furniture.

Anyway, just before it was my turn to give testimony I was informed that a settlement had been reached. I guess that if the parents 'admit' to neglect then they don't need to have a hearing, and the children will just remain in foster care. At some future time there may be some other hearings related to permanency of the placement but I didn't really feel it was important to dig for details.

The concept of a 'settlement' was interesting to me - because it seems that there is really nothing to be settled other than the question of whether or not the kids were neglected. Maybe there is more to this than I am aware - and maybe they have some criminal culpability - but that is all conjecture on my part. I really don't know.

I felt bad for the parents today - because no matter how much they could have or should have conducted themselves more responsibly - they just seemed like meat for this grinder. They were undereducated, uninformed, and ill-equipped for parenting - and in some way that is kind of tragic. It's like not being able to escape from the rubble of your own collapsed circumstances.

Comments

Buckeyebrit said…
Hi! Just wanted to let you know about a new OT blog carnival and invite you to make a submission. More about it on my blog http://e-nableot.blogspot.com/2009/02/occupational-therapy-carnival-call-for.html

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