An Open Letter to Juvenile Deprived Judges

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Dear Juvenile Deprived Judge, 

You see hundreds, if not thousands, of kids come through your courtroom each year, all with their own stories to tell. You see their tears, their fears, their smiles, and their joys. You walk them through some of the scariest days, weeks, months, and years of their lives. 

You are the one who protects their safety and wellbeing. 

You hold their futures in your hands. 

That’s a lot of pressure to put on one person. Do we, as foster parents, caseworkers, attorneys, and therapists, expect you to always get it right? Of course not. Not only are you human beings who make mistakes just like the rest of us, but sometimes your hands are just tied. 

We do ask, however, that you ALWAYS put these kids first. We ask that you do everything in your power as a judge to protect these children from harm. We ask that you consider how your decisions will affect each child in the long term, and not just the short term. We ask that you keep biological parents, foster parents, caseworkers, attorneys, and therapists accountable for their actions, or lack thereof.

We ask that you become trauma-informed, so that when your hands are tied by laws that require you to move a child from one home to another you’ll know what services to put in place to help mitigate that trauma. We ask that you think about how transitions affect children, and how they can be carried out in a way that’s best for them and not for the adults involved. We ask that you consider time in these cases–because every day a child spends in foster care, is a day too many. 

Again, we understand that sometimes these decisions are out of your hands and you can’t always do what everyone would consider to be right, but that doesn’t mean you can’t lessen the impact. It doesn’t mean you should just wash your hands of the situation. 

Children in care who have an equipped and educated team standing behind them, including their judge, are more likely to emerge from this system healthier, safer, and better prepared to handle the effects trauma has on the brain. These kids need you to do your best for them every day. They need you to fight for them and to listen to their advocates. They need you to show up and do the work so they can focus on healing from the abuse and neglect they’ve endured. Ultimately, they need you to know their names and their stories, and not just their case numbers. 

A judge’s job is always difficult. You have the final say in navigating the long, complex story of these children’s lives. You have to weigh the evidence, law, and possibilities in making a decision. As a foster mother who understands how difficult this system can be, I ask you to fully understand the impact of trauma on a child’s life, to ensure you do no harm, and to always give the child’s well-being the highest weight. If we work together with these goals in mind, we can discharge these children from foster care on a path of healing and with hopes for better futures. 

Sincerely, 

A Foster Mom 

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