Systems suck, particularly the child welfare one. Andrew and I had to do a court thing yesterday and it was so stupid. It had nothing to do with Blitzen and her parents or permanency, it had to do with her board rate which was mysteriously changed a year ago. In a lot of ways, I just wish money wasn’t part of the equation — we certainly are not doing this because we are deluded into thinking that there will be monetary gain of any kind. In fact, if we didn’t have the jobs that we have and the bosses that we have, being foster parents would almost certainly be having a negative impact on our careers and earning potential. But, of course, everything about the child welfare system is about money and not just the board rate. But that is probably a longer and very different post.
All this to say, we went to court to ask that the former board rate be reinstated because we believe that the funds help us meet Blitzen’s needs in the way that she deserves to have them met. We have worked very hard to figure out what is best for Blitzen. Many of the things that have contributed to Blitzen’s tremendous improvement over the past 20 or so months cost money. But the money is not the point of this post.
The system is designed to be completely adversarial – in every direction. Everyone is conditioned to assume that everyone else is trying to get away with something. Our court meeting was 7 minutes long and it turned exactly as we wanted it to because 1) we were right 2) we were prepared 3) probably the subject of another post again – we’re well dressed, overly educated and white. But in that seven minutes, I was asked 3 times who I was because my name wasn’t on the piece of paper in the judge’s hand (although he had a big old file in front of him and surely my name appears somewhere!), Andrew’s name was on the paper and my name is not the same as Andrew’s. It went a little like this:
Judge: “And who are you?”
Carrie: “Carrie Ann”
Judge: “And you are?”
Carrie, pointing at Andrew: “We’re married.” For the record, as proud as I am to be married to Andrew, this is not how I usually describe myself. Keep in mind that Andrew has already introduced himself but by name only and wasn’t asked any of these questions.
Judge: “You are the wife?”
Carrie: “I am the wife and foster mother.”
Judge, kind of skeptically: “You
live with the child?”
Carrie, getting really pissed now and Andrew, smiling, because he thinks he gets to witness a fight and that it is possible that if this line of questioning continues, I may get even angrier and make the judge cry: “I am the foster mother of record, I live with the child AND the husband.”
Judge: “What is your address?” Seriously, it was a test — he was trying to catch me.
Carrie, saying my address in a tone that would refreeze the polar the ice caps: “address” which of course is the same as Andrew and Blitzen’s.
ACS worker and case worker interject, “We’ve worked it all out – the rate is reinstated, we just need to sign off on it.”
And we were done. But, really, did it need to go to a judge? Circling back to money and resources, the number of people that we interacted with yesterday was astounding – 2 security officers at the court house entrance, a woman to read our paper and give us a number, 2 more security officers on the courtroom floor, another lady to read our paper and take our name, a lady to call our name and take us to the judge, a ACS worker, our case worker and the judge, and of course, the car fair lady (we politely declined to be reimbursed for car fare because we have unlimited metrocards). 11 people, 1 hour total (counting all the security lines and paper reading ladies) to fix something that never should have been broken. Which perhaps sums up the system perfectly – lots of people, lots of money, lots of resources to fix something that never should have been broken.
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