Going To Court
"If you don't decide how to "Do Family" someone will decide for you."
~Doing Family Supportives Services
Breathe!...and know that no one can speak up for you and your child better than you. The courtroom is where you will show how committed you are and the progress you are making. There are people with a lot of things to say about you and why you are there. One side will be talking about your issues and the other side will be talking about the things you've done to become the parent you need to be. In this section we will talk about the different things that happen when you go to court, the common feelings parents may have, and how you can be your best every time you stand before the judge.
Faces In The Courtroom
This is the person who listens to the details of your case in the courtroom. They will recieve information from your caseworker, your lawyer, the state's lawyer, and your child's lawyer.
The judge makes decisions based on what he/she hears and the recommendations of other people in the court room. You may or may not get to talk to the judge. If you have something you want to say in court, you should tell your lawyer and ask them to say it for you. Your lawyer will let you know if what you want to say will help you with your case.
This the State of Illinois' lawyer. Because a child's safety is so serious, the State's Attorney works to make sure the laws about keeping your child safe are kept. They will always work for what is best for your child, even if that means it is better for your child not to be with you. When a parent is making great progress, they can agree to a "Return Home" permanency goal.
This is the lawyer assigned to you, if you don't have or can't afford one. The Public Defender's job is to work with you to show the judge how well you are working on the issues that brought DCFS into your life. They speak for you in court, even if you and your caseworker do not agree on your progress. You should talk to your Public Defender about everything you are doing to improve and give them proof of your progress such as:
Completion certificates from drug treatment, parenting classes, anger management, etc.
Progress Reports from counselors and therapists
Drug test results
12 Step meeting sheets
Letters of Support from your church
Proof of work and housing
Documents showing any extra activities you have done to improve your situation.
Guardian Ad Litem:
This is a special representive appointed by the court. The Guardian Ad Litem, also called "GAL" protects your child's rights. They are concerned with making sure what the child needs and wants is heard by the court and will work for what's best for your child.
Your Case Worker:
The case worker assisgned to your case will be at court too. Because they work with you to offer services and monitor your progress, they report to the judge how you are doing with completing the services on your plan and visiting your child.
Then there's YOU!
We've talked about all the other people in court and what they do, now let's talk about you.
You are the most important person in the courtroom! Showing up to every court date is one important way you "speak" up for yourself and your family. It says that you are committed and that you are doing all you can to get your child back. Going back and forth to court can be very frustrating and some parents are tempted to give up. Sometimes there is difficulty with your caseworker or doing what's in your service plan. What you need to know is that your voice matters and when you use it the right way, you can communicate what you need to the court. No matter what happens at court, remember you have a goal of getting your children back and "doing family" in a healthy way. Keep that in mind when the going gets hard. Knowledge is the key to success, learn all you can about your rights and responsibilities and keep moving forward.