Tuesday, February 01, 2011

In Re Brittany C. (Cal. Ct. App. - Jan. 20, 2011)

I don't know how someone can do family law cases their entire career.  At least if they're all like this one.

Or, more accurately, I couldn't do it.  And accordingly have a great deal of respect for people who do so and do it well.

It's a nightmare.  Father and Mother have seven children, in three groups:  Chris (who was born by himself), "the twins" (William and Kyle), and "the quadruplets" (Brittany, Heidi, Collette and Wesley).  And I thought having four kids was tough.  Father and Mother split up.  They've now had three different cases in the Court of Appeal, and DCFS has had thirty referrals about the family.  Yikes.

Some of the kids say that Father sexually abused them and that some children had sexual contact with some of the other children.  Some of the kids say Father sexually abused Chris in their presence.  (Chris, by the way, is now 16, and was born with male chromosones but has "taken on a female persona.")  Other children say that Mother physically abused them and coached them to tell lies about Father.  Needless to say, Father and Mother can barely be in the same room with each other, much less raise a family together.

Mother loves the twins, who say bad things about Father, and doesn't care much about the quadruplets, who say bad things about Mother (like that she's "evil" and that she "hates us and does mean things to us when no one is looking") and who plead with the social worker not to be taken back to her.  Father, in turn, doesn't care much for the twins, and has problems even with the quadruplets -- several of his visits with them had to be ended because he started screaming uncontrollably at them, including one in which Father screamed at the monitor (who was trying to calm him down):  "I have a PhD, damnit!  You need to show me some kind of respect!"  Nice.  Eventually even the quadruplets don't want to return to Father, though they want to be with Mother even less -- they beg to be stay with their foster mother, which shocks the social worker, who says that kids almost always want to go home regardless of the severity of the abuse.

The children start literally kicking and screaming every time they are dragged to a visitation with the parent(s) they don't like.  They draw pictures of sharks eating their parents, writing "F[] you" on them.  During attempts to give visitation, they throw things, turn over tables, etc.  Some of the kids start accusing Mother of sexually assaulting them.  The kids start screaming at the other kids.  Some of the children start literally running away from even the supervised visits, and have to be picked up by the police.

Your basic nightmare.

What you do in a situation like this is beyond me.  A family that is likely irretrievably broken, and yet we're desperate -- for good reason -- to try to get people back together and give them their rights.  The system is simply not set up for situations like this.  Everything we try to do seems either unsuccessful or affirmatively counterproductive.  We're basically just trying to hold tight until the kids reach the age of majority and can do whatever they want.  At which point they'll likely be so massively messed up that it's too late.

Like I said:  How one can deal with cases like this -- as an advocate, as a social worker, or as a judge -- is beyond me.  I just can't imagine coming from days like this thinking:  "You know what:  I did really good today."  All that you could legitimately say is that the day might have been an even bigger disaster without you.  Small solace, unfortunately.

So here's to those with a stronger constitution and mental toughness than me.  I envy your strength.  Truly.