Two months ago we went to the adjudication hearing regarding our foster son. The hearing was supposed to determine whether there are sufficient facts in the case to necessitate declaring him a child in need of assistance (CINA) from the State of Maryland. I say we went, rather than attended because we weren’t actually invited or expected, for that matter. One might even take from the response we received or the lack thereof from Baltimore City Department of Social Services (BCDSS), that we were not welcome.
We camped out in the lobby of the court house outside of the room where social workers and attorneys for all sides were working their magic. For our son, that meant coming to agreement on the facts of the case without having to hash it our before the master (the judge in these hearings). From 1:00 PM until almost 5:00PM we waited there, mostly standing, hearing bits and pieces of what was going on from whoever would stop to talk to us. At one point our foster son’s court appointed attorney introduced himself and as the rest of the invited parties shuttled back and forth between rooms within the court house, he periodically stopped by to update us on what was transpiring. With the exception of our son’s investigative social worker who had long ago transferred the case but was there as a witness, everyone else in BCDSS pretended we were not there. We were hoping that eventually when the 2:00PM hearing started we would be able to sit in the back as observers. We had brought all of our documentation regarding his care, since we were concerned that the attorney for BCDSS might not have the documentation he needed to argue the case. It was actually worse than we imagined. Because some workers involved in the case failed to do their job, BCDSS was put in a comprimised position and had to negotiate the facts of the case with opposing counsel rather than allowing the facts to come out in open court. We were to say the least, disappointed because of this, and because we had hoped to get a chance to understand the position of all parties by seeing them in action during the hearing. Instead we went home that evening with the understanding that this system is indeed complicated and parts of it are seriously broken. We realized that there were no easy answers for anyone drawn into this case.
We are back at our sentry posts in a few hours when the delayed disposition hearing will take place. At that time the court is expected to determine whether to return our foster son to his biological parents or to commit him to long-term foster care–meaning he would stay in our home for at least the next ten months. It would then be incumbent upon his biological parents to take significant actions in order to regain custody. We will be there once again taking our same places, hoping to be allowed into the courtroom. If not, we will continue at our post outside of that room, showing our support for our son, hoping to get information regarding his future…and ours.