You dress up. You walk into the court room. Your heart is racing. Your palms are sweaty. You have no idea how the hearing or session is going to go. All you know is that you love your child and you want nothing but the best for them. However, if we are honest, we all think we are the best thing for the child we have taken into care…and most times, that is the case. So how do we handle court “like a man”?
Understand. One thing that is incredibly difficult for us as foster and adoptive parents (especially dads) is the fact that we must understand the process. Part of that understanding is that the court system will do everything in its power to grant reunification to the parents. Reunification is not a bad thing. It’s only bad when it is not good for the child in a situation such as abuse. So when you think the process is taking forever, and the judge grants even more grace towards the birth mom or dad to get their life straight, understand that the court is just doing their job in giving the birth family every chance imaginable in order to redeem themselves.
Know. Know yourself. We always talk about trying to find out what triggers our kids into those crazy temper tantrums. But we must take a deep look at ourselves. What triggers us? If you get angry easily and have trouble biting your tongue, it may not be the best for you to go to the court hearing for fear that you may hurt your chances by saying something you shouldn’t, by acting out in anger, or by saying something to the wrong person which could be turned against you in the court case itself.
It’s also important to know as much about what your walking into as possible. This is incredibly helpful if you have a great connection with your case worker, your guardian et litem, or even the DSS attorneys, have them brief you on what a typical day in the courtroom looks like or even what you could possibly expect that particular day. With that being said, understand that curve balls come. Curve balls that no one sees coming, and it will blindside you. But learn as much as you can about the process before going.
Advocate. If you are able, advocate for your child. Some judges will allow you, the foster parents, to testify. If you are able to, and are able to keep your composure, do it. You are the best person to advocate for your foster son and/or daughter. In advocating for your child(ren), you need to make sure you do one thing…make it about the child. Your testimony should not all be, “we did this” or “we did that”. What you could say is, “Since coming into our care Johnny has exceeded at school by…, he has stopped multiple services because of the care he has received from x,y, and z, etc. Be sure to advocate for your child by sharing what they have done, not just what you have done for them.
In conclusion, handling court “like a man” is probably not any different from handling it like a woman. It is helpful to understand the three steps listed above and really advocate for your child in anyway possible. That could be just showing up to make your presence and showing your support or as much as testifying on the stand. Regardless of what you do, do it for the child.