Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My Day In Court.

A couple of weeks ago I volunteered to be a Guardian Ad Litem.
Love it.
Looooooovvvveee it.
technically I haven't started yet.....
I'm still in training....but oh how I love it. 
If you can find some time
and you have a heart for the well being of kiddos under the care of the state
the GAL program is calling your name.

Hear that? 
Ring, ring.
It's calling your name.  

I, of course, am not doing it for the children.
I'm doing it so that I can yell things like, "I object!"
{which apparently I do not get to do.}
"May I approach the bench Your Honor?"
{can't do that either}
"Did someone order the pizza?"
{definitely can't do this}
Just kidding.
It's totally for the kids and it's also great experience & training for my future self's social workiness.
One of my professor's on the first day of class said it was her job to make sure that we didn't suck as social workers.
Alrighty then. Guess that about sums it up.
So in my effort to not suck, I knew this training and program would help.

Anyhoo, part of my training is 4 hours of court watch where I observe dependency hearings, arraignments and trials of parent(s) whose children have been removed from their homes.

Heart still intact I headed downtown this morning to the court house to meet my Master GAL that I would be shadowing today.
Now me and my stay at home mom/college student self don't go downtown much.
So I was ever so surprised when I came to an intersection and saw that our city has these

Guides with unfortunate hats!
Bless his little heart hat.
Our city has guides all along downtown just waiting to direct people where they want to go.
Who knew.

Anyway, I arrived and attempted to parralel park my Suburban.


And it was as I watched half the city stop what they were doing and laugh hysterically at my many many many attempts....that I gave up, parked in the parking garage, walked into the courthouse and went straight to the bathroom to brush my hair
{Good hair is essential to being a GAL.....said no one ever. The truth is, I had to go potty but there's no way that I'm going to write that I had to go potty on my blog, so I went to "fix my hair".}
Disregard that last part.

And that's when I saw this sign
And that's when I realized I am blogging again so I have to whip out my camera to document such things.
Check it.

Seriously folks?

So I arrived at 8:40 for a 9:00am hearing that didn't actually end up happening until 12.
Lesson 1 of court....things rarely if ever run on time.
But it was actually a good thing for me anyway,
probably not for all of humanity that was outside the doors waiting their turn,
but a good thing for me.
I was able to see so many cases and I'm still picking my jaw up off the floor.
I think I was meant to be a lawyer.
Or a child protective investigator.
Or a judge.
Or a baliff.
Or a deputy.
Or the lady that types really reeellllly fast. 
I dunno.
But something.
I found the entire process astonishing and so, so, soooo far removed from my everyday reality.
{ Just WOW.}

I saw a guy get arrested.
Did you know that if you show up to court for a dependency hearing and you have a warrant for your arrest that you will be....ya know...arrested? And your poor sweet mama sitting next to me will have to hold your belt and your nice shirt, and your wallet as they put handcuffs on you, and she'll promise to get your truck home.

I heard so many things that broke my heart again and again and again.
Foster parents.
You guys are rock stars.
Without you, well, I don't know. I hate to think of what.
Keep on keepin on friends, you are making such a difference. 

What you quickly realize is that so much of the icky stuff that goes on....we will just refer to this as icky stuff cuz I'm just not gonna get in to all of systemic and incredibly wide spread. Lack of education, poverty, generational abuse, unemployment, all seems to collide and each seems interdependent to the other.
I knew this of course.
In my head I knew this.
In my textbooks I knew this.
In my realm of common sense I knew this.
But to see it?
To really see it being played out in front of you case after case after case?
Well, that's a whole different story.

So that was my day in court.
I have no other photos to share.
I thought about pulling out my camera, but I knew that would be frowned upon and me trying to explain to the Judge that I have this blog and all....well, didn't sound promising.
I did think about asking her if she wanted to take some selfies with me but I can't bare to spend another night behind bars and I knew that's where I'd end up.
So ya know....I chose to sit quietly.
Another few training sessions and I'll be flying solo in this.
Excitement level high, heart a bit more broken, but nonetheless resolved that though I am only one I can still do something.

But the better news?
You can too!
Go here.

Oh, and remember, You can't handle the truth!
Sorry....can't help myself.
Oh, and I've NEVER spent a night behind bars.
That was totally a joke yo.


  1. Good for you! Awesome experience. Thank you for choosing this volunteer/learning opportunity. We need more of you! I wish more good-hearted Americans would spend a half a day observing dependency court. There would be a much better understanding of all that systemic icky stuff and maybe we could reduce it or at least make it not so recurring in families by improving the system.

  2. Okay, so this is the first time I've ever run across your blog, but I had to comment. My family fostered a couple of kids last year, and we had a really good guardian ad litem. She took the time to visit the kids, to talk to the kids, and to talk to me. And in MDT and court meetings, she was able to advocate for the KIDS' best interest. Not their parents or their foster parents or their social worker, but the kids themselves. It was a very good thing. I'm pretty sure that in our state, only lawyers can be guardians ad litem. Your position sounds more like the role that I have head called CASA in a couple of states. But regardless, it's important! I'm glad to hear of someone taking the time and effort to invest in children in this way.

  3. Hi Linette! I agree that the GAL program is amazing in it's ability to focus SOLEY on what is best for the child! The GAL program is two fold, the volunteer GAL's and the Attorney for the GAL program who are always present in the courtroom as well and handle all of the legal "stuff". My role is indeed just like CASA, there are about three names for basically the same program nationwide...can't remember the third one. Thanks for stopping by! Lovely to "meet" you!

  4. Eye opener indeed. Wait until you get to go meet the birthparents in their home, and the kids wherever they are, and listen to foster parents doing the very best they's what taught me to truly love people.