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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Files and files and files

This week begins my attempt to clean out all my files - I have ten years of client files which have all been saved in the cloud, but which I also have all the paper copies of.  It's been quite a reminder, a memory jog that burned no calories, going through each file to store the physical copy more efficiently.

One of my first cases was a sexual abuse victim and siblings, and when I read through the paperwork I recall being so horrified, so sure that this was a unique and almost singular situation - a young girl abused by her mother's paramour, with the result a pregnancy which ended in the death of the fetus in a sketchy way.  The young girl was a hero - and still is to me  - but the situation of the mother's paramour being abusive (and perhaps a pedophile, if the suppositions I had as the case progressed were correct) and getting away with it is all too common.

In that instance, there was not enough criminal evidence to have this man charged; it was mostly shoddy police work in preserving DNA from the fetus remains.  The work of the police, while probably standard at the time, was so poor that the man not only went free, but also the woman who had chosen him as a psuedo father to her several young children never quite believed he had done this despicable act.

In the balance, several young children were removed from their only known parent, and placed with another relative of questionable ability to parent.  Their biological mother waffled back and forth and didn't quite know whom to "believe" in the case of her eldest child and her paramour.  Finally she chose the children, although none of us working with the family was quite convinced her choice was about the children so much as it was about the lack of financial help (food stamps, housing allowance, SSI, etc) she received without them in her household.

All of this was very dramatic and dire, just as it sounds.  But it was not nearly so rare as I thought at the time.  I can't even count the number of households where I have seen a very close parallel to this story - a mother, her kids, and a man who is not the father of all (and often, indeed, not the biological father of any) of the children, and an act of abuse.  Often, it is a sexual abuse, and many times it is on multiple children.  And in my estimation, about half of the time, perhaps slightly more, the mother chooses to remain with her paramour, even up to and beyond the point of her children being removed from her.

Now let me pause here to say that I was horrified - and I am still horrified - that a mother could choose a man over her child or children.  But in the next breath I will say that my judgment of such women is much more clouded than it once was, both legally and personally.  I would like to say that this situation never happens, and that when it does, the woman is a horrible, evil person with no real love for her children.

That isn't the case.  Just for a moment, as hard as it is, put yourself and your spouse in this situation:  One of your children's friend's parents has called social services with grave concerns that one of your children is being abused sexually.  This other adult doesn't know for sure, but she overheard a conversation your child and her child had which pointed towards an adult in your child's life behaving inappropriately.

Your child told her child about a "game" that the man in her household played with her.  He would tickle her whole body, and told her not to tell anyone. Immediately, many of us have ears that prick up at the "not to tell anyone" portion, and maybe even at the "tickle her whole body" comment.  Some of us are mandated reporters, and if your child's friend had a parent who was mandated to report suspected abuse, the right thing for her to do would be to call the abuse hotline.  She might or might not also speak to you, the parent, about what she had overheard.

The next thing you know, social services is at the door, wanting to speak to your child personally, without you present.  What would you think?  What would you do?  Are you sure?

In the next hour, if you allowed it, your child would be questioned, and if the worker feared the allegations were true, your child might very likely be removed from your home to be questioned more and to be placed in temporary care of a foster home.  Your paramour or spouse would come home to find you shattered and confused.  Would you believe he had done something wrong at that point?

More on this in the next post - but just for a moment, think about your home, your kids, your partner.  Are you very sure you jump to believe that your partner had done something horrific?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Interruptus Gesticaticus

The sloppy title hopefully gives it away - I have been absent from my inept attempt at blogging due to a sudden onset of gestation!

Which is pretty weird since a) I am not married (no biggie there), b) I was on birth control when I got knocked up, and c) I haven't done this in more than a decade - the youngest around here is eleven.  But, the more the merrier, etc, and onward we go, if a bit green around the gills and way too old and tired to enjoy the joke yet.

On the job front I am keeping this schtum, mainly since, haha here's more irony, I am something of a role model in my GAL role and perhaps an unwed, unplanned, late in life pregnancy won't be well met in my court or with my other coworkers.  This isn't too easy with my often twelve hours straight through court days where I now MUST take pee breaks (and no one else including the judge ever does).

The job is already a bit tense, since I may be having my pay cut significantly as my job splits in the new year.  My current job is both GAL and delinquency defense, and frankly, I have too many clients to be ethical at either job; new state laws regarding GAL standards have put the onus on me to inform the court of this overage of clients.  I have done so and the solution is apparently to split the job (which is needed very badly, not only due to head count but also due to raging conflicts of interest that are coming up in at least one-fourth of the cases - call it small town, everyone knows/screws/deals/perps together or on one another - a very sick version of Cheers).  The bad news is, the county can't pay me my salary and still actually pay a delinquency defender...so instead, my pay gets cut.  Gotta figure out some way to make the numbers crunch in a way that doesn't leave us homeless with a newborn. 

I might add here, with every understanding that I begin to sound pitiful, I also have no health insurance outside COBRA from my divorce ($$$$) and no time off unless I pay a replacement.  I'm a contract employee, which I now understand to mean "screwed."  There is a job on the horizon which I could take, one which would give me insurance and time off and the whole normal spiel, but it would be far less flexible than my current setting, where I have some ability to work from home at least. 

In spite of all the shocking and/or nearly Dickensian sounding news here, I am pretty happy and the kids are thrilled that we will have a baby next year.  Who knew this was the direction we would take, with one graduating and leaving for college in 2012?  What fun, to have a small one again! 

Typed while munching broccoli and carrots and swigging back not rum and diets but Crystal Light ;-)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Workload

My workload is at a crazy level.  I have a number of cases that I consider way beyond what can ethically be handled - 273 at this time.  I am working a court day this week (four for the week today, but one specifically bad ones) that I anticipate will run from eight a.m. to ten p.m. 

Yes, you read that right.

And, we don't take breaks.  Not for lunch, not to pee.  Well, that is  a slight exaggeration.  At around three or four in the afternoon we will have a twenty minute break - but I won't, because during that time we do the adoption docket and I am on those too.

I sound complainy again, and I am in fact complaining, but I am also wondering - is this the normal working day for an attorney?  Tomorrow I will have what I think of as a normal day - eight to five in court with a lunch, then two hours of phone conferences on the drive two and from.  Oh, and at least two hours after the kids are in their rooms for the night, prepping for the nightmare day described above. 

The day after nightmare day, I will have a half day of court and then six hours of phone conferences.  Thursday will be all day phone conferences and meetings, no court appearances, and then Friday I have two half day trials - that's the easiest day of my week.

I knew I would work many hours as an attorney, but I truly had no idea that any court worked fourteen hour days with no breaks.  Anyone else in that situation?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Difference, Part Two

So yesterday's post was pretty bleak, and today's won't be much better.  Basically, my kids and my job are both going well - so I almost feel bad complaining.

However, my dad had very emergency surgery earlier this week, following the discovery that his heart issues, known since last year but inoperable due to his very poor healthy, were at a near fatal level.  It was scary and very stressful, but he came through as well as could be expected.  I'm hoping he will bounce back - but there is now a spot on his lung and poor lung functioning awaiting him, after he recovers from a partial heart transplant.  So.  That's that.

And, boyfriend's daughter is making some choices that I can't allow in my home.  He is holding her accountable so far, but I fear that is temporary.   And if that's the case, I can't do anything but boot her - because my kids come first for me.  That will hurt, for me, for him, and I honestly think worst of all for her, because she is a hot mess right now and needs stable, good role models. 

So things are not so dandy right now - medical and personal stress almost overwhelmed me till last night, when I decided, no.  This is not going to beat me.  I survived domestic violence and heartbreak and loss; I made a happy life for me and my girls.  Parents die (that's hard to type) and men come and go, but my life is mine to make a good place. 

That's my attitude today.  Or, it's what I am faking till I feel it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

what a difference a week makes

Future Doc and SnarkyTeen are owners of a car.  My dad is the owner of a new partial heart.  And I am considering booting boyfriend and all that comes with him.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Drowning

...

After a very unexpected four day "break" from work (family medical crisis, not yet resolved and very scary), I am drowning in a) papers, b) motions to file and c) laundry.  In that order.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ethics versus politics

My "boss" is the Juvenile Officer.  Well, not really, because I am a contract worker, hired as required by my state, by the county and not any agency.  But, in practical day to day operation, my "boss" is the JO.  The JO is an incredible person, knows a ton, and should be an attorney (but isn't).  The JO is also very very Type A, in a way that is increasingly causing the movement on cases to slow to a dead halt. 

So, up till the last three months, the JO and I have had a cordial (not close) working relationship.  I pretty much always agreed with her, perhaps due to my own newness at the job and perhaps due to trusting her knowledge on cases.  Recently I have begun to be more independent in recommendations, as required by statutory changes.

The independence plus success of many of my recommendations has become a really big problem, it seems.  My relationship with the JO has soured to almost nonexistence.  This is fine with me personally, but politically and perhaps even in terms of keeping my job, it is bad news.

This is scary.  I have four kids depending on me to have a job in a bad economy, and the job I have barely pays the bills.

At the same time, statutory requirements of my position are clear, and so are my own personal ethics; I cannot change the things I am doing.

Advice welcome.