Friday, March 19, 2010

Children's advocacy

Robin Smith Jurado arranged for a group of Five Acres volunteers to visit Ed Edelmun's Children's Court this morning.  We got to see where all children are cared for during the day they are in court -

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.

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