As a society, media feed us a narrative which spins a story of the villainous parents whose children are rescued by the government, by DFCS. The media never see the background, the person for whom perhaps compassion might inure. No, the outliers, the anomalies grab headlines.
We devour media coverage. How is it that we can shape and change this narrative? How can we show that parents, and foster parents, show up as the heroes most of the time? We can share the stories and highlight what parents’ attorneys see every day but the press ignore. The media overlook these heartwarming stories because no headlines in the pop culture villain transformed into hero overcoming a hard time.
A reporter writing a profile on my books was surprised to hear that I believe parents in Dependency Court, by and large, truly love their children. Success in Dependency Court comes from my sincere desire to guide parents entangled in the court system to victory.
The book started as a two page letter to Bethany, an appointed client. She worked a regular shift at a fast food restaurant. I could usually find her there, even when she missed court. She lived her life, at that point, with no phone and, I hoped, couch-surfing. DFCS “removed,” the legal term for took, her very young child. Everyday away from this child was a substantial proportion of that child’s life and diminished her bond with this beloved child.
Her life revealed the complementary issues of domestic disharmony, likely physical abuse, and substance abuse, probably addiction. As a former domestic violence prosecutor, the explanations and excuses rang familiar. She fit the classic pattern.
I believed then and believe to this day that parents love their children. Some parents just haven’t acquired the tools, the skills, and didn’t have the upbringing to be effective parents without help. Add in a parent’s own undiagnosed and/or untreated issues-chaos follows.
As my appointment ended when the Court entered a disposition, I wanted to help Bethany understand, to empower her. The case was not hopeless at that point, but she needed to act. I wrote her a two page letter. That letter became a small booklet. My partner kindly directed me to be less judgmental and more proactive. He was of course right. Finally, Success in Dependency Court is in print.
In the almost 17 years I’ve worked as an attorney, parents are not usually the villains. Parents in Dependency Court have the same problem that we all have: changing the story in our minds about who we are and what type of parent, person we are. When the government says “you’re not parenting properly,” it takes time and patience to shepherd parents through the process.
Success in Dependency Court supplements the experts and therapists with the unwritten rules of successfully navigating the Court system.
(c) Nancee Tomlinson 2017
I’ve put together a simplified timeline for juvenile court. The internal workings of juvenile court require more explanation. This timeline is an initial approach for the uninitiated attorney.