At one point during Monday’s hearing, I was shaking so much that I was certain everyone else sitting on the bench could feel the tremors. I wasn’t nervous. I was everything – anxious, scared, intrigued, hyper-alert, happy, hopeful, despairing. I tried steadying myself – locked my knees together, held on to the bench, clenched my teeth – but I wasn’t all that successful. My actions seemed to make it worse. Finally, I remember thinking, “Fuck it, I’ll just have to shake.”
By the end, I was oddly calm. I’m not exactly sure why. In shock? Maybe. Numb? Possibly. Or maybe the hearing’s outcome simply confirmed what I had already suspected.
In the weeks leading up to the hearing, I had come to expect that the parents would be given at least 90 more days. According to previous court records, the target date for the family’s reunification is August 2009, which just so happens to be 22 months after T and his sisters were placed in shelter care.
I’m way past believing that 18 months is far too long for the kids to be without a permanent home, but I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that the Court, the Department of Social Services, the attorneys and the parents agreed many months ago that August 2009 was the deadline. Everyone signed on the dotted line.
I’ve also had to re-acknowledge something that continues to be right in front of me: Unless something eggregious happens…if there is nothing downright awful and unjustifiable happening…if the parents don’t just up and disappear or go on some frenetic, homicidal spree, the court and DSS give much in the way of latitude.
Reunification is the goal, a philosophy and perhaps, in some sense, a religion. All parties signed up for it, bought into it and are expected to carry a pocket version of the manual around at all times. I have to keep reminding myself that people go to great lengths in the name of their particular religion. If I can hold onto that, hopefully I won’t be surprised and disappointed.