In the past two months my experiences in Children’s Court and the local domestic violence courts in the Sydney Australia area have been incredible.
Every day I encounter stories of unimaginable trauma and abuse.
In Care Court I have seen a mother disregard and minimize her role in failing to protect her children from significant harm. She was reluctant to provide any explanation as to why her case file is filled with disturbing pictures of horrific injuries that her children have experienced and doctors’ reports explaining that these injuries have occurred from many incidents of extreme and intentional physical abuse.
In care court and the local domestic violence proceedings I have heard mothers deny the presence of domestic violence in their relationship despite evidence of numerous police reports, past protection orders, and multiple previous convictions of assault.
I have listened to parents in Dispute Resolution Conferences in Children’s Court make excuse after excuse as they fail to appropriately explain why they have made little to no progress in completing programs that are necessary for their children to be restored to their care. I have heard mothers deny and minimize their drug use and tell questionable stories under oath about why they haven’t visited their children or why they haven’t attempted to contact services for parenting courses or counseling.
In clinical assessments of families involved in care and protection matters I have observed parents who deny responsibility for their children’s stress and problems and who state that their children are simply “over-exaggerating”NAND “over-reacting”.
I see children who have reacted to years of abuse and family trauma by acting out and committing multiple offenses with little remorse.
In the protection order listing in Children’s Court, I see victims of abuse transition to become perpetrators as they appear in court for criminal domestic violence charges and protection order proceedings.
While it is easy to get caught up in the negativity and be overwhelmed by the depressing reality that many of these children face, I have learned that it is important to not overlook all of the positive aspects of what I see everyday.
Every day I see unwavering determination and strength.
I hear the testimony of parents who are fighting with all of their strength to battle addiction, domestic violence, and poverty by working with a system that they ultimately distrust and do not understand.
I have seen the progress a mother has made in an aboriginal women’s domestic violence support group, where child protection services have acknowledged her efforts and progress to the point that they will not automatically seize her little girl once she is born in a few weeks.
Every day I see resilience.
I have seen how survivors of child abuse have overcome their own experiences and are now helping others. In Care Court I met a woman who explained to the Magistrate how she met the young boy facing breach of probation on the street and since he was removed from his parents’ care and was in a refuge like she had been when she was his age, she has done all that she could to help him and was standing there in court that day as his only support person.
I have witnessed the resilience of a 21 year old aunt who was removed from her parents when she was younger and who is now appearing in court to request that her twin nephews be placed with her since they have been removed from her sister’s care.
Everyday I see the potential for these children to have a brighter future.
I have seen children bow their heads in shame and embarrassment and cry tears of remorse as a Magistrate’s message was finally understood as the Magistrate talked to their parents and loved ones while trying to determine if the young person will remain in juvenile detention after committing another offense.
I have fought back tears as I have heard a young man explain his difficult past and why he chose to skip court and travel by bus for a full day to see his birth mother for the first time in several years for his birthday out of fear that he would otherwise have spent his sixth consecutive birthday in juvenile detention.
I have seen a solicitor wipe away tears as she struggled to explain to the Magistrate that because of how the system has failed her client in the past, her young client is now asking to stay in prison for the remainder of his 14 month parole term so that he can receive the mental health treatment that he desperately needs.
Every day I encounter people who are truly making a difference.
I have seen Children’s Registrars explain with compassion, love, and respect to parents how they need to get help and start taking action to address their issues if they want a chance to have her children restored to their care.
I have heard Magistrates go beyond their role as a judicial decision-maker as they try to inspire parents to acknowledge their past wrongdoings and mistakes so that they can progress, develop, and change for the sake of their children.
I see Magistrates struggle to provide “tough-love” to children who have committed horrible criminal offenses and who often appear in court with no support while they tell heartbreaking stories of their difficult life circumstances.
I see Magistrates grapple with extremely difficult cases as they approach reaching a decision with compassion, caution, and a genuine interests in improving the lives of children.
I have met a solicitor who was so passionate about helping the children he represented that he said that it would have to be “over his dead body” that his two clients would be returned the their mother’s care since in her care they received intentional, horrific injuries that left one child with a permanent limp and the other child in the hospital for weeks.
I have witnessed the unwavering resolve of legal representatives for children as they fight for the children’s best interests. I have seen many of these solicitors speak with passion and conviction to the parents of children as they try to inspire them to change and to make decisions in their children’s’ best interests.
Every day I am inspired.
In the most unthinkable circumstances, I have seen how there are always examples of hope, courage, strength, and compassion that show the true resilience of the human spirit.
Every day I am struck by how many compassionate, strong, generous, and supportive people I have met throughout my journey in Australia. I feel so honored to have been able to spend time with so many incredible mentors who have truly made an incredible impact on the children that they meet and the society in which they live.
No matter where my journey helping children and families in need takes me in the future, I can only hope that I will be able to make a similar impact. 🙂