A bad day

April was National Child Abuse Prevention Month, but what happened this morning reminded me that every month is worthy of that designation.

I’m a CASA – a court-appointed special advocate in family court. That means I’m a volunteer who works with a child’s guardian ad litem to make sure the child’s interests are kept in the forefront as the family’s case winds its way through labyrinth that is the U.S. court system.

It’s a volunteer job I’ve held since May 2005. In all, I’ve advocated for 18 children over the last seven years, sometimes twice, when their cases returned before the court.

On days like today, I wonder how effective I am. Today I watched as some kids I’ve worked with before went into foster care. It was heart-wrenching, although I knew it was best, at least for now.  Their safety was at issue.

But what troubles me is that the last time I saw them, a few years back when they were released from the court’s jurisdiction into their parents’ waiting arms, I thought the family was on the right track. I saw progress, knew the parents could make it. Not just me, either, but everyone involved in the case thought this was one happy ending in the midst of so many sad ones.

A happy ending isn’t out of reach, I guess, but maybe the definition needs to change, at least for this family. People can change – it’s one truth of humanity – but how many second chances do folks deserve?

It’s a question I wrestle with.

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