Part of fost/adoption is court. I was told early on that Foster Parents didn’t need to attend court but that you could attend. I was also advised that it was not good practice to attend right at the beginning of a foster child placement. So for the first few court dates, I didn’t attend court. As our case moved along with Miss S. (our first foster daughter) it became clear that she was going to be adopted by us. Our goal was fost/adoption so we were thrilled. Full disclosure…. we never met birth-mom, she never utilized her court ordered visits and she never called us. I did see her and her mother in person once at court…..more on that later. It was at this point that Eddie and I personally decided to start attending court. Miss S. need a voice for her and it would be us. Well, me at court.
The courts rule on every aspect down to the adoption finalization. It’s part of the process that is unavoidable. For me, because I live in Los Angeles, that means we go to the Edmund Edelman Children’s Court. I don’t have to bring the girls (we have two foster daughters now) with me because they are too young and it’s not required. I’m not sure the age when the little ones are required to attend. I would guess around five. It’s an odd place here at the Edmund Edelman Children’s Court. It’s a place that I loathe going to and I can’t wait till I am here for the last time.
Here are a few tips and my perspective on visiting court room 409. First of all, it is located on the 3rd floor. That just gets me everytime. Why are the 400 rooms on the 3rd floor?
Parking for the structure is $5 cash for all day. (no in and outs) My first time attending court, I waited by the parking structure elevator until a young lawyer informed that the elevators had been broken for a year. Then he said, “well…one works…. sometimes.” Since that day, I have always taken the stairs. I advise the same.
I like to arrive early. Court starts at 8:30 but you might want time to potty before the bailiff takes roll call. Once he checks everyone in you never know when your case will be called. So, if you are attending solo, you might miss hearing your case being called. I heard horror stories about people arriving at 8:30 am for court and finally getting called at 3:00 pm. This has never happened to me. I think they want to get the foster parents out as soon as possible. I am almost always first to be called. The court breaks for lunch so be prepared for the break.
Pack snacks and don’t forget your coffee and water. If you do….. You can grab lunch or breakfast in the lower level cafeteria. It is good food, not great. Not cheap and cash only. Outside of the courthouse you have a sprinkling fast food places. Just remember parking is “no in and outs”. The fast food places are built around the freeway so they are a little tricky with traffic. On the morning when I left my coffee at home, a little drive thru McCafe coffee was brilliant, no matter how many u-turns I took to get my $2 coffee.
Court is depressing sprinkled with tiny bits of joy. Let’s begin with joy….. Today while walking up, I spotted a few popped balloons and some confetti sparkle. It was the sure sign that an adoption happened. One time, I saw two 6-year old twin girls dressed in darling matching dresses. They were moments away from their forever family. It was a precious moment. One that I’m dreaming of. Really that is about the extent of the joy here. No one smiles. Everyone seems anxious. It’s a serious place dealing with serious issues. Different floors and court rooms deal with different issues. 409 is very sad because you can see all the foster kids and it’s almost never adoption day for them.
It’s sad here and you can see it on everyone’s face. Most people keep to themselves. But that is hard as the lawyers talk with their clients in open public. They try to talk soft but it is hard and if you are sitting close by you just can’t help hearing. The stories of client/lawyer are sad and after you hear them you just want to scream. One time, I overheard a woman who was telling her lawyer that she would rather stay with her boyfriend who had sexually abused her daughter than work the program to get her daughter back. I just wanted to jump up and scream what the HELL is wrong with you? But you know what, so much is wrong, cyclical, drug fueled and sometimes there is just no turning back. At that moment, I just found myself praying that the daughter is placed with a forever family that is far far away from her bio-family.
The waiting room gets filled up quick! Unless you want to burn the back of your neck and roast up a good sweat, I suggests you not sit in front of the windows. If you are a social junkie…. Look for a seat with a plug in near you. In the early hour the waiting room is filled mostly with grandparents and aunts with little kids who are required to attend court. Everyone’s head is on a swivel. Looking around to see if someone from their case is attending. As soon as 8:45 approaches the bio-parents (usually moms) begin to trickle in. The sad awkward embraces of the bios with their children are excruciating to watch. On very rare occasions, I have seen joyous courthouse reunions. One time, I saw a young girl crying because she didn’t want to hug her bio-mom who was overly zealous about getting her cuddle time and as high as a kite. Yes, people show up to court high. The grandparents look tired, they have seen it all and they are exhausted. They are raising their grand-babies and holding out hope that their children can “do-right” or “clean-up.” It just rarely happens. You can see a trail of broken promises where laugh lines have turned upside-down.
The first time I attended, I was a hot mess. Freaked out is an understatement. I thought I would levitate right out of my skin. No one and I mean no one would sit next to me. It was like I was branded a “foster mom”…… a real bad guy. People would begin to walk up to the empty seat next to me, take one look at me and turn away.
I had no idea what I was doing. When the bailiff came out he checked everyone in. (BTW – he is super cute and most of the girls in the waiting room flirt with him.) He asked me who I was there for and asked me my relation. Miss S.’s name was right there on the check-in sheet and right above it was her Big-Sister’s name. (Miss D would later join our family too) He marked a FP for Foster Parent next to her name. I could see that someone had checked in for Miss D. But who? There went my head…… swiveling around. Who is here for her sister? I could hardly breathe. To this day, I have no idea who signed in for her. At that moment, Bio-Mom was a no show. I knew what she looked like because I was able to find some photos of her on facebook. I found myself covertly staring at people to see if I recognized any of the them from my cyber-sleuthing.
It was now past 9am and I’m texting Eddie that Bio-Mom hasn’t shown up when out of the corner of my eye…..I see her and she is wearing a blouse that I had seen before in a facebook photo. She was with her mom. Her mom is my age. I’m 44 and thinking that Miss S.’s bio-grandma is MY AGE! She didn’t know who I was. It was the most odd feeling. I wanted to tell her about how wonderful S. is. I wanted to somehow relate and at the same time I had nothing to say to her or her mom.
Grateful for a glimpse and then bitter.
It’s true….. I became bitter. You see, I was tried from sleepless nights, early morning feedings, diapers, visits with social workers, doctors and mostly tired from the weeks of worrying about court. My hair was way past due for a wash, my clothes still had a little slobber on them from the early morning feeding, my nails were bad and my make-up that I applied in the car (i was parked) looked like crap because I left my mascara at home. I felt like a slob.
Bio-Mom and Bio-Grandma looked like a million bucks. Both had fancy manicures, freshly styled/dyed hair and matching rhinestone outfits. Yes – they both had on matching V.S. Love velour track-suits! Glitzy gems spelled something across their backs and behinds. I felt bitter and that feeling passed quickly. It was sad. Bio-Mom kept her head against the wall, she never looked up, she was snap-chatting and just waiting to be called. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree and she never really stood a chance at a normal life. It is hard to break free when you are trapped in a cycle and a neighborhood like hers. Their rap-sheets are long. They run in serious gang circles. Since this began, I have lost count on how many times they have been arrested. They might look cute on the outside but the reality is not a pretty story.
This day in court, I actually didn’t go into the courtroom. Miss S.’s attorney informed me that the DNA test for the alleged Bio-Father was not back yet so they would not be addressing S.’s case. It would only be D’s case being heard. I opted out of going in because at the time I believed that D was being adopted by a family member and I didn’t think it was my place to stir up emotions.
We have come a long way baby……
Since that first day in court (16 month ago), I have been back numerous times. Now when I attend, I am the voice for Miss D. and Miss S. You see, Miss D.’s path lead her to our door. Both girls are now in the process of being adopted by me and Eddie. It was a long road to get the .26 hearing. The .26 hearing is the termination of parental rights. In my next post about children’s court, I will go into detail about the mistakes that were made in the courts and how the mistakes created outrageous delays. I will also explain the amazing feeling of hearing our names in court for the first time. It knocked the wind out of me.
Good news…… the girls are not going anywhere and we are in the process of planning the adoption party. We have zero idea of when the party will be……but it’s in motion. The sisters will be adopted together!