Today at First Church of Somerville we learned about the injustices that children sometimes suffer at the hands of corrupt or burned-out judges and courts. These judges rendered decisions witnessed only by the children and their parents who had been convinced that they were powerless. The decisions were rendered behind closed doors.
Do not mistake my desire to draw more attention to this issue. There are many many public servants in courts who value justice and who are making sacrifices to participate in the protection of children and families. There are judges and courts who struggle painfully to find the best possible outcomes for families facing misfortune, poverty, violence, and other sources of stress. These quiet heroes never receive the attention or the honor they deserve. I’ve met them, they have participated in my training, they have listened to what I have to say in their court rooms.
What happens when the man or woman with the power to decide the fate of children does not have such noble motivations? What happens when a judge gets burned out and goes through the motions? Who will notice before they or one of their own loved ones is the victim of a burned-out judge? There is an important fact of our judicial system that everyone should know: family courts do not have base their decisions on evidence to the same degree that adult criminal courts are required to do. The decisions of the family court around custody and parenting time does not have to be based on sound psychological evaluations or accommodate substantiated abuse charges. It is true that decisions are rendered by courts that to most of our minds “cannot happen.” Ian spoke about a few. It is equally true that there are many people who have devoted a tremendous amount of time, heartache, intelligence, and humility to making the decisions of Solomon.
What does this have to do with a community of people devoted to protecting children from exposure to violence? It is a call to all of us to listen to each other. We need to talk together and share our stories. We need to be witnesses and leaders. No one can keep a child safe alone. We need support, we need to feel accepted, and we need to know that someone is watching so that we are on our best behavior with our children and ourselves. We need to believe that someone will notice when we are too tired to make responses and when we need a break. We need to believe that there is a community of people who will hold us aloft when we have to struggle for the safety of our children no matter what.
How are you a witness? Who watches you and holds you? Do you believe that you need a community to keep your children safe? Does it matter if all the children in your community are safe?