Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Awkward Moments in Foster Care: Courtroom Silence

I generally try to initiate conversations with birth parents.  Our relationship is inherently awkward, and I tend to be more awkward than the set-everyone-at-ease personality type, but I try.  At court, though, everything is even more weighty, even more awkward.  So, I've generally said hello politely but not started a conversation.  It's a tense day.  I don't know how they're feeling and if I start small talk, if they'll be silently wishing I would just leave them alone.  But one time I went to court it was extra silent and uncomfortable, though, so I've found it better to just bring along a new picture or something to have something brief and polite to say, then if the parents just want to say "thank you" and not talk, that's fine.  If they want to talk more, then we can.

But this one time, I didn't have a picture.  The mom was in the hallway and I asked if I could go in the court room.  She said yes.  I went in and sat silently.  A few others filtered in and discussed court business briefly.  The mom came and sat in her designated spot.  Someone said the judge needed to see everyone in his chambers (besides the mom and myself).  So, there we sat.  Deafening silence, not even sitting near each other so trying to talk then would be even more awkward.  Then something started happening on a screen in the courtroom, as the dad was attending remotely.  An employee at his location was trying to get it to work and she asked, "Is anyone in there?"

I knew I was supposed to say something, but I so prefer to slip through court silently as an observer.  Did I really have to speak up?

"...Yes." I called out.  "But not many.  They're mostly with the judge."

"Can you see us?"


"Okay, we can hear you, but we can't see you."

She fiddled around with it and suddenly it switched to an 80s geometric "technical difficulties" screen while blaring distorted elevator music.  Neon blue and purple rectangles slowly covering the image on the screen.  Eventually it switched back, and the deafening silence continued.

Eventually the hearing began and it wasn't silent, though the poor caseworker's testimony was interrupted in mid-sentence by the spectacularly awful blue and purple rectangles with accompanying music.  It was one of the first things I had to talk to B about when I got home from court.  His reply:

"Oh yeah, that happened the last time, and everyone looked at each other with weary, knowing glances."

Court: never boring, and so weird.

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