May 31 2016

My Favorite Child

I want to tell you a story that I've adapted to what I do. It's a story by Erma Bombeck in its original form but I've made it my own. It's about my favorite child and just so you know, when I talk about a child in this story, there is a human, flesh and blood child that I can point to and every one of these children is my favorite child.

Every child welfare judge has a favorite child. They can't help it. They're only human. I have mine- the child for whom I feel a special closeness, with whom I share a love that no one else could possibly understand. My favorite child is the one who is scapegoated by her siblings and parents just for speaking out about the sexual abuse at the hands of her father. The one that was only four pounds and seven ounces, born early by ten weeks and who was struggling through painful withdrawals from heroin in the NICU with a new foster family by her side.

My favorite child spent Christmas alone, away from her family, was trafficked by her stepfather to pay the bills, and lost all her things again because she was moved in the middle of the night with no notice to the new foster home.

My favorite child is the one who hated therapy, who broke his glasses again, who just wanted to fit in and who misses his family dog more than anything.

My favorite child is the one who kept running away from placement after placement, who refused to go to school even though this was "only" the fourth one this year, and who wanted to be accepted by her mother who continued to refuse to visit or to come to court hearings for her.

My favorite child cried in my office because she couldn't go home that day. He withdrew because his favorite foster home gave notice because he smoked marijuana at the home. She brought the therapy dog into my office for comfort when discussing her dreams and desires.

My favorite child has pink and purple hair, wore all black, all the time, wanted to get help from someone, anyone to get their drivers license. My favorite child could be selfish, immature, bad tempered and self-centered. She was vulnerable, lonely, unsure of what she was doing in the world and yet, also quite wonderful.

All child welfare judges have their favorite child. It is always the same one: the one who needs you at the moment. Who needs you for whatever reason - to cling to, to shout at, to hurt, to hug, to be still with, to unload on, but mostly just to be there.

I hope you'll be there for the child that you are assigned to. There are going to be some good days and some bad days. And, as we know, in those bad days, the most important thing you can do is not give up on them, be there for them every step of the way.

See all the photos from the Swearing-In Ceremony on Flickr!

May Advocacy 2016

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