and to learn about CASA, the child advocacy volunteers who do so much behind the scenes. We also got to sit in on a court hearing - the mother was picked up for being passed out drunk on a public street with her 18-month old daughter, the father was in shackles, serving 5 years for drug dealing. The issue was over the father wanting parental rights - but it was apparent he was after the mother, one way or the other.
The judge was amazing -
No child under four appears in court - but all children over that age must appear before a judge before they are placed - either in foster care, a foster home, with a caretaker, etc. When the child is brought in they are given caring, loving orientation. The spaces for them to play are amazing - big, filled with toys for the younger children, games including pool tables, ping pong tables, for the older - television sets -
every child who appears in court gets a teddy bear - The judge continues to see the child every six months till permanent residency is established, adoption arranged, etc. Each child has his/her attorney, each parent has an attorney, social workers, court reporters, a bailiff, etc. are among those present.
The case-load for that day was 75 hearings - in just one of the courtrooms.
Hearings must be scheduled within 72 hours of "detention" (I learned that this word has a different definition from what at first assumed - it means that a child has been taken into protective custody from a home where abuse has been reported, a drug raid has been conducted, a crime witnessed, etc.)
We heard about major layoffs of supervisors and staff. Robin's contact, a long-time supervisor of the CASA facilities, was spending his last day - about to transfer to Criminal Court in Compton.
Several other desks were empty - it is so sad to hear of these jobs lost from a place overseeing all the children in seven county areas in and around Los Angeles.
Truly eye-opening, amazing, and heart-touching.