‘Don’t you lot EVER think about the kids?’

No, you are absolutely right. We have spent years acquiring expertise, passed up the opportunity to earn three times as much money in any other area of law you care to choose, regularly work into the night reading graphic details about head injuries and abuse and neglect, and spend 50% of our time telling our feckless clients a few home truths and putting up with tears and swearing and storm outs, all because we don’t give a **** about the children. I’m sorry if I sound a little facetious but really! I can’t THINK of a more stupid job to do if you hated children. If I really hated children I’d go and be a teacher or something.

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I do despair sometimes when a children’s guardian can say such a thing to the lawyers in a case. I understand why these things are said, but still. It’s a little insulting and a little upsetting.

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But there is a serious point here. Simply because counsel acting on instructions of their client, say the mother or father in care proceedings, pursues an appeal on fairness grounds which will cause delay in a case where the Guardian is clear in her own mind what the outcome should be – does not demonstrate the callousness to the best interests of the child that the quote might suggest.

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For what is fairness if it is not something applicable to all parties? If a parent seeks a step to be taken in proceedings to enable them to have a fair trial this may well cause delay but this does not necessarily mean that such a course of action is not child focussed. Delay is better avoided, but an unfair trial is unfair for all concerned. A gap in the evidence that prevents a parent properly pursuing their case for return of their children is a gap in the evidence which has prevented a child from having as good a chance as possible of going home to their family, which increases the risk that they may be avoidably adopted. And a trial which is rushed through to avoid delay at all costs may end up being postponed or appealed and reheard to ensure that it is done thoroughly and fairly – causing unnecessary delay and heartache for all concerned. And then there’s the worst case scenario – a trial that produces the wrong outcome for a child that is not rectified on appeal.

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Lawyers understand this whoever they are acting for and whatever their silent views of the merits of their clients case. What some professionals interpret as not caring is no more than our professional ability to take a step back from making judgments about what is or is not worth delaying matters for, and focussing on preparing the case properly so that the judge who has to make the final decision can make the right decision first time round. It is not easy for professionals of any discipline involved in these cases to maintain a professional distance, and it is particularly difficult for social workers and Guardians who are specifically tasked with making recommendations to the court to feel anything but frustrated waiting for their considered views to be acted upon by the court at trial, but the court framework is overlaid upon the social work role for a reason – to protect families, and to protect children. The lawyers are not working against that aim, they are a vital art of the process of getting to the right outcome.

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Some cases admittedly look so hopeless or pointless or inevitable that everyone concerned feels that they are going through the motions. But in cases like that I remind myself of the cases I have dealt with where I have found myself succeeding on what I have told the client is a completely hopeless case. That’s neither a mark of my brilliant advocacy skills, nor of my poor judgment – it is a demonstration of the importance of the judicial process.  

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So to go back to the question – for my part I think about the kids all the time. How could one not? But then I get on with giving sound advice and acting on my instructions, and put my faith in the court to work out the right solution.

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15 thoughts on “‘Don’t you lot EVER think about the kids?’

  1. Okay first you should apologize to (most) teachers for that swipe you took at them. Maybe teachers in the UK are generally uncaring about their students but I assure my Mrs. goes far beyond her compensation to help each of her students.

    I read your Blog post with great interest. Up until May2006 our family has never had cause to be involved with the Family Court system.

    That is, until we received a call from Social Services asking if we would take a (then) 2 year old boy and 4 year old girl who are brother and sister. We know the family (the birth family and the extended family). SS wanted to place the young children in our care under their Emergency Placement plan. The maternal grandmother actually said to either place them in Foster Care or the orphanage. The (millionaire) aunt/uncle said they would take the boy for three weeks but they were gong on a Med cruise around Europe that summer.

    The reason we, non-blood related, were asked to take the children? We have a relationship with the children.

    When the 4yr old girl was 4 months old we were asked to help out the single father with the infant for the summer. Since my (school teacher) wife was out of school for the summer it was a good fit. Wait… single father? Yes. When mom was pregnant she got so intoxicated that she ran over a pedesterian and killed him! She was subsequently convicted of Vehicular Homicide, went to prison and had the little girl while incarcerated. We cared for baby girl from 6:20am – 6:30 pm M-F and would occassionally keep her overnight and on weeiends.

    Mom gets out when baby girl is now 2 years old. Mom is still on probation when baby boy is born addicted to drugs. When I read his medical file I read where he was flailing his arms/lega and rooting around in his crib. HE WAS FRIGGN DETOXING! Now remember mom has already killed one guy on drugs/alcohol and she’s STILL on probation. So the State just sends the baby home and nothing is ever done to mom.

    Over the next two years the children are taken out of the home THREE TIMES. Domestic violance, drug use, etc. Now the extended family is so put off with the drug abusing, domestic violant couple that they decide to “throw away” the 2 and 4 year old!

    So in May 2006 we spoke with all of our children (girls ages now 29, 25 & 20) tell them what is going on and ask them for their feelings and input. Without exception they each said we should take the children in. After all it was only going to be a few months until mom/dad could pass a drug test and finish their Anger Management classes.

    Now birth mom and birth dad are seperated. Birth mom has a court appointed attorney and dad could care less.

    The goal of Social Services is to “reunite families and provide for the safety and welfare of children.” Well guess what counselor. As you know these two goals can, at times, contradict each other.

    For TWO YEARS neither mom nor dad passed a drug test nor did they ever complete their Anger Management classes. Was either of them ever heald accountable? NOOOOOO of course not! But remember they love their children. Right?

    So now here we sit FOURY-ONE MONTHS from the time we took these precious (and remarkably) resiliant children in and we now have a final court date in November to finalize the adoption of our “new kids.”

    Look I know you Family Law Attorneys work hard and are exposed to some of the most unbelieveable cases most people could ever imagine. I get that. But DO NOT try to tell me that it is FAIR TO THE CHILDREN to let this sort of thing drag out simply because of legal manuevering! Who gives a crap about the birth parents! They care more about doing their drugs and beating each other up than fine. Let them do it. But don’t let the children languish year after year while the family they are with has one sir name and they each have different sir names.

    Family court should NOT be about the family. IT SHOULD BE ABOUT THE CHILDREN! PERIOD! The children did not ask to be dragged into all this mess. The parents created it and just because they have embrios/eggs and squiggly sperm they can abuse, neglect and tramartize their children and expect to get them back?! How is THAT in the best interest of THE CHILDREN?!

    I’m sure you are a fine attorney but please don’t try to convince me that all family law attorneys are as honorable as you. It just simply is not the case.

    END RANT

  2. Just cruising the blogs about adoption and found you. We adopted a bi-racial boay at the age of 2. He is now 8 and we couldn’t love him more. I just had to comment about your comment re If you really hated children you woud be a teacher. I am a teacher. I hope you were joking. I teach in an inner city school in Indianpolis, IN. I consider it my mission from God. I love my students, and if I didn’t I would never be able to face the daily obstacles that are place on us, (ie. teachers) that try to prevent us from doing what needs to be done to teach these children. My question is the same as yours, how can we not think about the children. For all the rhetoric about the eductional system, what is seems to really come down to is money. It seems society just doesn’t want to do what would really help. It is so simple, but costly, just cut class sizes. How can a 4th grade teacher teach 32 children? That’s not teaching, that’s riding heard!

  3. Excellent post. Not that it will convince the naysayers that lawyers aren’t in it just for the money…

  4. That is such a frustrating comment- it is like the idea that social workers don’t care about the families they are working with either- working with children and doing the right thing is so tough that people from all sectors are reconsidering their careers- I hope that you don’t get that frustrated. Keep up the hard work Lucy- and enjoy the week-end!

    Corby.

  5. Gee, teachers are touchy! Of COURSE I was joking about teachers.

  6. Martin Narey would fully agree with mssc54 who seems to share with mrsdmenopausemum interests in teaching and in God but not in humour or tolerance. Do I detect a pattern?

    • No humor or tolerance? How can anyone get through the day without these qualities? Anyone who works with families and children in desperate need of help would go insane by the end of one day without humor or tolerance. I see children who are children of children, who often only eat when they are at school, who move frequently, and whose parents have little education. If they do live with mom, mom is worried about paying the bills, not helping their child with school work. The stories can break your heart and leave you feeling hopeless that you can help or that thngs will ever change. No Humor, No Tolerance, Puh – lease! Additionally, am I supposed to tolerate neglect, poverty, abuse, prejudice? I guess I just don’t understand your comment.

  7. I’m so happy that you were joking! I thought you were, but wasn,t quite sure. I think teachers are so touchy because at this time, we feel under attack. Our state and nation have become so focused on test scores and “accountability” that the needs of the individual student have been thrown to the wayside. I also see I misspelled herd! How embarrassing :O Keep up the great work that you do.

  8. @Brick I just remind myself that the “waste of space” young adults that we see messing up their kids were probably being messed up by their parents in exactly the same way throughout their childhood, not to mention failed by the system designed to protect them. And that the kids we are trying to “save” may well end up repeating the pattern if things aren’t sorted out. It’s a depressing cycle where by and large even the abusers are victims. God doesn’t come into it for me (or at least I’m adopting the Thumper stance on that point). But I don’t think a condemnatory attitude is helpful – you need to understand the causes.

  9. [...] 2009 October 21 by Brick Small spat over at Pink Tape when familoo wrote about a children’s guardian who had said to the lawyers in a case, [...]

  10. Interesting post – I work for a social work publication so it’s good to get a different perspective on the process. The principles of justice are important.
    Do you have a view on the opening up of the family courts to the press?
    I agree with you about teachers though! (Only joking!)

  11. I have 3 beautiful children. two boys age 8 and 5, and a little girl who will be 4 in January. I have raised these children on my own, while me now ex partied every night. Drinking, smoking marijuana and somethime more. I filed for divorce in dec 2007. My date kept getting pushed back and finally in nov of 2008 I met with my attorney to sign the papers. At this time he had not contested for custody. I was talking to my attorney and I had told her my soon to be ex had lost his job. she said ” you’re not signing then” I asked why? “she said you won’t get enough support.” I told her I didn’t care” I had been supporting them on my own income for the last 7 years. In february he filed emergency custody. I begged him not to do this. He said as long as you sign this agreement. In dec of 2008 , I had lost my job also. Anyway to sum up my story, we were meeting half way every other weekend as of june 12. 2009. My ex has the children in Ohio living with his parents. On sept 15th he decided that he was going to go by when distance is a factor. This clause is in the settlement. However it says we may go by this. We didn’t.
    I have not seen my children since september. My boys cry to me and want to come home. My daughter started asking if I was her mommy. He has physically and emotionally abused my 8 year old. I pray every night for the lord to bring them back to me where the belong. I tried finding legal help for low income and I tried pro bono.
    Denied. I make too much money on unemployment. I have a degree in Radiation Therapy. I have been doing this for 12 years. I am limited to apply in Ohio, so we can have shared custody. I really don’t want to move there. I want my children half the time, but I know he will try to control everything. I could have a job tomorrow in Az,TX, MA , CA, but i am afraid if I do that then I will never see my children. I want modification of custody. I have so many contempts on this man. The children were always with me. My heart aches.

    lost with no justice. What about the kids?

  12. Noble servants of the court Tirelessly protecting Women and Children or synical manipulators cashing in when people are at their most vulnerable, Mmmmmm who knows for sure?
    Interesting though that most people who earn a (meagre?) living seem happier with the first argument.
    The circular argument rages on.
    Jono

  13. having experienced personally and assisted others even with rights of audience the first thought is that the system doesnt care about children. Compare children in the 1970s to now – what a difference. We had freedom, a society outside of state agencies that looked after each other and children were allowed to be children.

    How many lawyers can put hand on heart and say that they belive the theories being touted in both public and private law case such as attachment theory.

    No-one has been able to explain how they measure it – neither can anyone define the words ‘ best interests of the children.’ Hearsay is virtually unchallnegable. LA social workers rely upon what ever is written in their files regardless of truth or otherwise and disclosure is a one sided impossible battle under the guise of ‘proportionate’ realistic and resource minded of the States failings. If you cannot show the evidence is relevant then the Judge refuses – until you see the documents no-one has a clue which is why the Data Protection Act is the only way to go.

    At the end of the day the picture painted for the Court is rarely accurate enough [any many times very untruthful]. Whilst Judges should protect the Public from state abuses the publis are hands tied at getting the data needed to have a fair adversarial process.

    So much for the ‘best interests of the childern.’

  14. [...] to the social worker Wall for pointing out a post by a family court lawyer on the Pink Tape blog. The particular post refers to a comment made by a children’s guardian, who accuses legal folk [...]

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