The first thing I heard when I opened my door at the courthouse were the church bells at the Cathedral just a block or two away. My reminder that God was taking care of this hearing for me. I smiled and walked across the street.
I entered the courthouse and went through the metal detector. It beeped, it always does because of the medals on my scapular and necklace. I showed the guard my necklace and medals, and she let me through. I waited for my purse to be dug through and reminded myself again to bring a smaller purse with less pockets and zipper compartments next time.
I made it to the 3rd floor to find a packed waiting room. Standing room only as usual. I found myself a corner to stand in as I scanned the crowd for any familiar face. No familiar case worker was in sight, so I settled into my spot and waited. Eventually, one of our case workers found me holding up that wall and told me to settle in because it would be a long morning. I knew this. I had planned for my day to be long and had already made arrangements for the kids.
A seat opened up on a bench across the room, I waited to see if anyone else wanted it. No one did, so I moved that way and had a seat. I began reading in a new prayer book that someone gave my husband. As I tried to focus on "my" prayers and needs, I begin hearing bits and pieces of other people's stories. I try to block them out, but as usual I can't. I always forget about this extra anxiety that always gets added to my court day.
How could I focus on myself when there were so many others there that could use my prayers? Besides, my God had me covered already. So, there I sat looking around the room praying for each of these people:
~the grandma that is trying to adopt her daughter's child
~the lady who sat in jail for two weeks because they had her name wrong on some court document
~the teenage couple on the side of me that used the "F" word in every sentence they could utter in-between kisses
~the lady with the possibly mentally handicapped kid that the state wanted to take away and put in a home because she couldn't control him anymore
~the numerous moms and dads that claimed they had had there kids taken away by these vicious government workers for no good reason at all
~the people that were high on drugs and thought no one could tell
~the security guards, the social workers, the lawyers that were treated like dirt
The room was still packed. No one was being called in. No one had been called in all morning. Everyone was antsy. Everyone was stressed. Everyone was aggravated and annoyed. Everyone was pleading their case to whomever would listen to them. And so I listened to their stories and prayed for them, for myself to be less judgmental and more compassionate, and for all the others out there like them.
Then I heard it. The sound that makes me sick to my stomach every court day. I put my head down. I did not want to see it again. It's too painful. It got louder, and I prayed harder. Clank. Clank. Clank. The sounds of "criminals" linked together with chains got louder and louder and then stopped. I knew they had made it to the elevator in front of me. This was the routine I had seen play out each time court day came around. This was the worst part of my day each time.
My heart ached for these men and women. I told myself not to look up, but my eyes didn't listen. As I glanced toward the elevator, my heart sank to the pit of my stomach and tears welled up in my eyes. These were not men and women. These were kids! Oh, dear Jesus! There were about 6-8 boys in handcuffs and chains being led out of the courtroom to the elevator. The youngest one couldn't have been much older than my boys (12). Then I heard someone say that it was "Delinquent Day".
The lump in my throat was as big as the one in my stomach, but neither was as big as the pain I felt in my heart. I could see the embarrassment, the pain, the hurt, the neglect in their faces. I wanted to "save" them all! I just wanted to reach out and tell them that there was still hope. That Jesus still loved them! That they weren't "Delinquents" in Christ's eyes! I prayed for the Divine Mercy of Jesus to pour out on these boys and for God to send each of them their own personal savior to show them the way.
As they entered the elevator, I looked around the room. Was no one else affected by this? Did no one else in the room care? Did anyone else notice that these boys were children of God? I seemed to be the only one. And again my heart broke. And I prayed harder for all these people surrounding me.
After the lunch recess, I sat with the security guard waiting for the afternoon session to begin. I questioned him about the day to day waiting room crowd. He informed me that it was pretty much like this everyday. In my world, I had imagined that this only happened once a week on DCFS day. Nope. Everyday. All day long. And today wasn't a "bad" day.
Before becoming a foster parent and having to sit in that waiting room, I
lived in my own little happy world. Yes, I knew there was evil in the
world. Yes, I knew that these things happened in "other" places. But I
had no idea how many kids there were without parents, the number of
kids with kids, the amount of grandparents fighting their own kids for
custody, the amount of drug addicted parents who had no clue what it
meant to be a parent, the number of people who truly did not know they
I ask you to pray for these people and all the ones like them in other courtrooms. Pray for the kids in foster care, pray for their foster parents, pray for their biological parents, pray for their grandparents, pray for those "delinquent" kids that are in jail somewhere when they should be out being kids, pray for all the drug addicted parents who don't know they are addicts, pray for the case workers that are yelled & cussed at on a daily basis, pray for the judges who sit on the bench for these cases.
This was one courtroom, on one day, in one city, in one state. I can't imagine what our world will be like in a few years with this going on all over our country. We have got to pray God back into families. We can start by putting Him in the center of our own.