Author: Julie H., Foster Mom
Unfortunately, court proceedings are a part of fostering a child. I had no idea what to expect, no idea what would be asked of me, no idea who goes to these court proceedings, and no idea about the different kinds of court proceedings that a foster child could be involved in. I’m, honestly, still a little shaky on all of this BUT, I did attend my first, and then second court dates! Whew.
Prior to the first court date back in September, when asked, Miss D said that she would just let her lawyer talk for her and didn’t feel like she needed to attend since she hadn’t in the past. At that time, she would miss school to attend it so I let her miss court. During the court proceeding, as a foster mom who talks and sees Miss D 24 hours a day, I definitely felt that her court-appointed lawyer was misrepresenting her wishes. Her lawyer would just text her back and forth prior to the hearing, and then in court would strongly state things that Miss D wanted that contradicted things that Miss D had said to us. After that court date, we (her Norris Foster Care caseworker, my husband, and I) sat with Miss D and talked about the importance of self-advocacy and not letting people speak FOR you when you could speak for yourself. And that we would be there with her so she would be supported in what she wants for her future….regardless of what that is…we want what she wants. Period.
On the next court date, Miss D missed some school to attend the hearing, but I was so proud of her! When her lawyer would state what Miss D wanted, Miss D actually interrupted the lawyer and clarified that’s not what she told her and that the lawyer is not saying it correctly. At another time, Miss D raised her hand and corrected another lawyer and the judge on how to pronounce her sister’s name. And again, later in the proceeding, she again corrected her lawyer who again misrepresented her wishes. At the very end of the hearing, her court advocate addressed the judge recommending that Miss D’s lawyer form a relationship with Miss D, because it was obvious that the lawyer was not able to speak on behalf of Miss D or her desires correctly. The judge agreed. Amen! THIS is why older foster kids NEED to be in those court hearings if at all possible. These hearings are about them and their future. They need a say. They need to feel that they have SOME control in this foster care system, and they need to be heard and listened to.