As the holiday season begins I will be experiencing something completely foreign to me; I will have my first holidays without my family and friends from the United States.
With Christmas lights and decorations around London and songs on the radio reminding me that “there is no place like home for the holidays”, it is easy to miss and crave the familiarity of holiday traditions and the love and support of my family and friends from home.
At the same time, it is in these moments that I am reminded that I have so much for which to be thankful and grateful.
I have a family at home from whom I have discovered and continue to maintain my strength, resilience, compassion, determination, and my passion for helping others. I have friends who, despite long distances, have remained in contact and have provided words of encouragement and support that have helped me remain strong and determined throughout my journey. I have a new adventure coming into focus as I return home, as I begin to hear this year’s cycle of law school admissions decisions including a full scholarship offer to a great law school in my home state.
I am currently fulfilling my dream of traveling the world in a way that not only allows me to experience places that I have always wanted to travel to, but also provides the opportunity for me to help others along the way.
As I reflect upon reaching the 1/3 mark of my fellowship, I am thankful for all of the experiences I have had so far in Australia and the United Kingdom.
Since my last post I have continued to have an unbelievable time in London and the United Kingdom.
I am thankful for all of the people I have met, everything I have learned about my fellowship project, all of the sights I have seen, and all of the memories I have made while in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
I am thankful for the opportunity to shadow incredible people and learn more about the English child protection, domestic violence, human trafficking, and sexual assault legal and social service systems.
I am thankful to be able to spend time in Judge C’s and Judge G’s Family Drug and Alcohol Child Protection Court (FDAC) where I have seen cases at all stages of the court intervention process. I have learned so much about how the British system approaches helping children and families who have experienced abuse or trauma.
I am thankful to see and experience a system where the staff has remained almost intact since the creation of the FDAC specialty court more than seven years ago. I am thankful to witness this change and development in British legal practice through the FDAC court as the system evolves to be more “user friendly” and less formal with an emphasis on working with families to address the complex issues involved in child protection matters.
I am thankful for the privilege to learn from a judge who has fought to start and maintain FDAC and who seeks to change the nature of jurisprudence in the United Kingdom to help repair the relationships between the courts and the citizenry. I am thankful to shadow judges who openly and honestly talk to the people involved in each case as they say to many parents “I want you to get your children back. We all want your children to be back with you, but we also want your children to be safe with you.”
I am thankful to see how that judicial approach has invigorated parents to work toward recovery and toward reunification with their children. It is also inspiring to see the FDAC team work so thoroughly and passionately to address more than just substance abuse but also housing issues, mental health issues, and domestic violence issues. I am grateful to see how such an involved, individualized approach of court intervention can be successful in helping parents overcome their challenge as they work to create a safe environment for their children.
I am also thankful for the opportunity to discuss a myriad of topics with the judges and the court staff. In between cases and at lunch we traverse difficult and complex topics with open and honest conversation, including: how a court runs and how the layout of the courtroom can affect the culture and the experience of court proceedings; how to create change in a system where the government is resistant to change; how the process of court itself can influence and alter not only the final disposition of a case but also the process of how parents and children are able to address and hopefully ultimately overcome their struggles and experiences; how the legal system and social welfare systems interact with clients of different cultures, languages, and education; how the local authority (child protection government agency) interacts with families and the court system; the effects that substance abuse has on parenting and children; the effects that domestic violence has on parenting and children; and how the child protection system is a different experience for non-British identifying persons, people struggling with mental health and/or substance abuse, and people of different socioeconomic and education levels.
I am thankful to have had the incredible opportunity to shadow workers at a safe house for human trafficking victims. I am thankful for how the staff at the Medaille Trust welcomed me and have included me in many different aspects of their work. I am thankful to have been able to interact with and play with the children in the safe house. I am thankful for the chance to witness strength and resilience as these children and families laugh, smile, and play despite whatever unimaginable experiences they have had before arriving at the safe house.
I appreciate the opportunity to intimately observe and experience the reality of different types of programs and services. I am reminded that sometimes the services and help available may not be enough to make a significant difference in the lives of those in need, as one client left the safe house in suspicious circumstances that may lead to her becoming a victim of human trafficking again. I am further reminded that it is within an individual to make the decision to accept and learn from the services and help that they receive.
I am also thankful to see how despite limited resources, a political climate unfavorable to immigrants and human trafficking victims seeking asylum in the United Kingdom, few services available, difficult language barriers, and complex cases, the staff at the Medaille Trust work diligently and passionately to do all that they can to help these women, children, and families.
Overall, I am thankful that because of having the opportunity to witness these incredible court processes and services, I am able to learn and to reflect as I try to understand what I can do to improve how my legal system and social welfare system at home helps children and families who have experienced abuse or trauma.
I am also incredibly thankful for everyone who I have met during my London journey.
I am thankful for Anna and Jak from Broadstairs for letting me couch surf in their flat as we shared meals together and stories about feminism, politics, psychology, juggling, and travels.
I am thankful to have spent time with new and old Bryn Mawr College friends as we celebrated a birthday, Thanksgiving, and explored London.
I am thankful for reuniting with my friend Devin in Dublin where I had the chance to explore and learn about a new place.
I am thankful for the kind American couple, James and Rita, who I met waiting for the ferry to Dublin. I appreciate their generosity, compassion, and company as we shared lunch together, commuted into Dublin city by taxi together, and spent hours talking and exploring together.
I am thankful for the opportunity to meet new friends, form new relationships and explore exciting sights, including:
The Harry Potter Warner Brothers Studios experience.
Windsor Castle (while the Queen of the United Kingdom was inside).
The village of Lacock with a great lunch at a local pub.
The City of Bath.
And Fish ‘N’ Chips Dinners and walks around London at night.
Finally, I am incredibly thankful for my amazing family in London. Without their help and love, my time in London and my experiences in Europe and beyond would not have been possible.
I am thankful for Bruce’s quick wit, Cara’s kind heart, and Calypso’s lively spirit. I am thankful for Ashley’s motherly guidance and support, delicious meals, and for the opportunity to get to know such an incredible mother and person. From a night at the theatre and their famous annual Thanksgiving dinner to nights watching Goggle Box, there are so many memories I will treasure from my time with them. I cannot express how truly grateful I am for all of their generosity, guidance, and support.
I am so thankful for how these experiences have helped me to learn and grow. During the past few weeks I have continued to explore myself as a person and am thankful for the opportunity to reflect and gain further insight into the advocate, friend, and person I am striving to become. As I prepare for the next several months of my fellowship year that are still ahead of me, I feel more confident, strong, brave, and more ready than ever before.