~ By an Anonymous Reader
I testified in court this week. It is not something I am accustomed to doing—you usually find me in my kitchen making meals or near the washing machine sorting laundry. I am a homemaker—full time. I love what I do and love being a feminine woman. My idea of a pleasant day is to stay home, get through some productive home school with my children. I love the scent of bread and pies wafting through a tidy home when my wonderful husband walks in.
But last Wednesday I put on a pretty skirt and left home to attend a hearing with 2 dear friends. That day the judge was to rule as to whether they would regain custody of their young daughter. Their child was taken from them on allegations of abuse. I knew both parents and the little girl well and was convinced the allegations were ungrounded. Though the Children’s Division investigation had been concluded months ago, and reunification was recommended, my friend’s attorney was worried. I had been asked by the school to be the daughter’s foster care provider so the attorney told me he may call on me to testify—but only if things went bad. They did.
Two opposing women testified. One was the affable case worker with a steady, bored voice recommending that the child be allowed to return home. The other was the stiff juvenile officer with a haughty voice waving away exonerating evidence. She coldly recommended the child stay in state custody. I felt sick. With no emotion, the judge asked if there was anything else before he closed the hearing. My friend’s attorney stood and I heard him say “I would like to call a witness…” and I heard my name. It sounded strange in the dreary courtroom. I walked with small steps before the judge to be sworn in. I wondered if anyone heard my voice say “Yes, I swear”.
I sat on the edge of the chair with my back straight and hands together positioning myself close to the microphone. I grew calmer as the attorney’s straightforward questions led me to easily express my testimony of the parent’s good character and the little girls’ longing for and devotion to her parents. After many questions, he left me an opportunity to freely state my heartfelt feelings. The attorney then concluded saying “I have no further questions.”. Suddenly I realized the judge was giving the prosecuting attorney a chance to cross-examine me. I had not realized I would be receiving questions from an opposing side.
The prosecuting attorney was a woman, but her deportment was rather mannish. She began by sweetly thanking me for being a foster care provider. I didn’t respond. She then asked me about previous experience in foster care. Yes, I did care for some children for a short time at the request of the school. Yes, it was a case of abuse. Yes, I did notice some odd behavior—the children never talked of their parents, only their dog. My answers seemed to frustrate her. Then she asked what I sensed was coming. “What qualifications and experience do you have to professionally ascertain whether a child has been abused?” I stated “I do not have any degrees, but I have raised 15 children and they are responsible, well-educated citizens.” I think I might have bragged a little more about them.
The judge smiled when I stated my family size and announced the happy verdict allowing my friends to once again be united as a family. Their attorney smiled broadly, shook hands with us several times and walked us out to our cars. He graciously told me that I had done “a good job up there”. I, of course, was happy for my friends. Somehow, I felt that I had an advantage over the prosecution. It had something to do with being a feminine woman and an involved and caring mother.