Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Short Version

This judge you may recall has the more relaxed courtroom procedures ever. This is what happened.

We followed the state worker into the courtroom. I asked him if we were next. He said he didn't know but that if the judge didn't want us there, he would tell us to go. Everyone milled around and then the clerk came in and told us to stand up. The judge told us to sit down.

Now, this isn't a transcript, but it is pretty close.

The judge announced that they were reviewing case... blah, blah, blah. It wasn't ours. Some people talked about how far along the guardianship process was going in that case. The answer was sort of muddled. The judge said they really needed to get going on that. The woman agreed. Then the judge mumbled something else about what the court found and ordered and then said, "which case is next?"

The state worker whispered to the state lawyer if we could go next. I suspect that he wanted the people who were sitting next to us to have more privacy with their case. The lawyer nodded and gave the judge the file number.

The judge took a minute to look at the file and then said, "Is there anything anyone wants to add?"

The lawyer from the public defender's office asked for clarification, who exactly was his client? This is slightly less outrageous than it sounds because the public defender's office has just gone through some sort of reorganization and they are all confused. The judge looked at the file again and then said that his client was Will.

Then the state worker said that they would like to change the case plan from long-term foster care to termination and adoption, because the foster parents had expressed a desire to adopt Gary and Gary said that is what he wanted too. The agency worker and Roland shot me looks of surprise. I shrugged. I had suspected the worker would say something like that.

It isn't wrong, it is just a subtle and important difference. We do not want the parental rights to be terminated so that we can adopt.

The judge looked through the file, said something about how long he had been in care and that no parents had been present for hearings. He then said that the court ordered that the case plan be changed to "termination and adoption" and that termination should procede. He then asked if anyone wanted to say anything else. When everyone was quiet he asked what the next case was and we left.

It took like five minutes.

So what I think happens next is that the state will have to attempt to personally serve each parent with notification of intent to terminate. The state doesn't have good addresses for them, but I imagine that process servers are fairly good at finding people. If they don't find them, then the state will have to put notices in newspapers for a certain amount of time. Then there will be hearing and the judge will terminate their rights.

If the process servers do find them, then the social worker will attempt to make contact and ask them if they want to voluntarily relinquish their rights. The worker thinks that the mother probably will, but that is based upon one phone conversation a long time ago. In Will's case his past behavior indicates that there is a good chance that he will just refuse to respond. If that happens, then at the next hearing his rights will be terminating.

HOWEVER, if Will or Gary's mother upon receiving the notification of the intent to terminate call their lawyers and say they don't want this to happen, there is a very good chance that is just won't happen. Gary will be 18 in 13 months and there really isn't time to have a battle. Also no one really wants to fight them. If they want to get involved in Gary's life and this notification prompts them to do something, that would be a good outcome.

The state worker thinks that this process is exactly the right thing to do.

The agency worker thinks that it is mostly a waste of time since everyone intends for any adoption to happen after Gary is 18 anyway.

I've got a lot of different feelings and thoughts, but I think the dominant one is that I am glad Gary's parents are going to be notified. We told Gary that we would adopt him, and he said he wanted to be adopted after he is 18. I wouldn't want that to happen without his parents being warned so they could stop it if they want to.

I think I have more things to say about this process, about how I feel about being part of it. It isn't all positive. I'll write stuff soon.

But right now we're all going out for fast food.


  1. Sterile and disconnected is how district court feels to me. Like they aren't actually dealing with people's LIVES. NEXT!

  2. The last time I was in court for a child welfare matter was the summer after my first year in law school. Maybe I should save the story for my own blog. Anyway, my point has nothing to do with court or this post. It's WAY past my bedtime, so I claim no obligation to be coherent or relevant. Or concise :-)

    I know that you like comments, so I've been feeling bad that you've written some really meaningful posts in the past few days and I've not commented. But know that I've been reading and thinking!


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