The judge, of course, plays an undeniably important role in the foster care team. He or she is a person who will have no contact with anyone else on the foster care team prior to court day and yet deliver a final opinion regarding the whole situation based on quick summaries given by the social worker, attorneys, therapists, and other involved parties.
Your child’s social workers all have experience with judges as do the attorneys working on your foster child’s case. They know which judges lean toward reunification at all costs, and which judges lean more toward keeping a child in foster care. Social workers and attorneys may have strong opinions about judges and their final verdicts. The tenuous relationship between social workers and attorneys is one that is often infused with much anxiety and frustration. Knowing a bit about the way judges tend to rule can be a huge source of difficulty for both social workers and attorneys. Getting past a judge who tends to see things in a particular way despite evidence that a given situation is different can be a real challenge.
The role that the judge plays in your foster child’s case is one that effects birth parents, social workers, attorneys, and foster parents in an indirect way but still a big way. A solid case for or against reunification can be completely overlooked by a judge who tends to favor a particular view of the world. You may hear tongue-in-cheek comments about a particular judge at foster parents support group meetings or at staffings or foster parent team meetings. Try not to get your feathers in a bunch over the word on the street regarding a particular judge. For the sake of your foster child, it is best to roll with the punches and try not to forecast the future based on the way a particular judge has ruled in past cases that were similar to yours.
The judge is the ultimate decision maker about your child’s future, but working as part of a team of people can help present a case that is viable to a judge. Remember that your foster child’s social worker and attorney are the one’s who have to present convincing evidence to get the verdict that they desire for a particular foster child. This is why it’s so important that you work with your team. Working as a team will help you and your child’s various workers to present a united front. And a united front is far more compelling than one that is divided.
If your child is going to be present or perhaps testify in court, try not to let on that the judge is biased. This is information that you should keep to yourself. There is no good that could come from telling your foster child that a particular judge already has made an opinion about his or her case. Judges do typically look carefully at the evidence presented and it’s likely that many of them are not as biased as they seem.