Today's post comes from Jill Lawson, Director of Case Management Being in the foster care system is very confusing – especially for a 5 year old. Questions arise wanting to know why are they at Palmetto Place, who made them move away from home, when can they return home, why can’t their parents just come pick them up, and many more. It is very difficult to explain the process to a child who doesn’t quite understand so you have to get a tad creative. We explain to our kids that it is not their fault they are in foster care, that they are safe at Palmetto Place and we love them just as much as their family, and we know they miss their parents and siblings.
We also explain to them that there is only one person that is able to sign the paperwork for them to return home: The Judge. Queue 62 questions about who the judge is, what they look like, where they live, where their power comes from (the "gravel" --not a gavel of course!), what does court look like, etc. When Google images fail you, it’s time for a field trip!
A couple of weeks ago I was able to take our 5 year old to see what a courtroom looks like at the courthouse on Main Street. We met one of the fabulous CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) attorneys there who gave us the grand tour. Our 5 year old was not only able to go inside a court room, but he was able to meet a judge! And sit in her chair and see the magical "gravel". She answered all of his questions and he absorbed the knowledge like a sponge. This was the answer to his many questions about the system’s process and he could see first hand what “the court” looked like.
After the attorney, our 5 year old and myself walked out of the courtroom I asked him if he was happy he got to visit a courtroom and he responded with “Yeah, but I forgot to ask that judge something. I forgot to ask her when I was going home.”
As an adult, how do you reply to that all while your heart is breaking for him? Of course she wasn’t the exact judge who would sit for his future case. A teddy bear and cake pops later, he was excited to tell the house parents about his trip to court.