Have you been to the courthouse in Idaho City?
Judge Cockerille presides over the most quintessential one-room Idaho courthouse for all cases in Boise County. This Main Street, Idaho building dates back to the gold rush of the Boise Basin with wood planking around the outside of the building and a jury room that sits six people (that's right, six!). The pews lining the courtroom are well-worn with slide of thousands of slacks and dresses and the only technology—awkward in its newness in such a historic room—sits in front of the court clerk.
I traveled to Idaho City with Josie, an Advocate Coordinator that oversees child abuse and neglect cases in Ada and Boise Counties for Family Advocates. She invited me along to help her recruit volunteer Guardians ad Litem and see how Boise County "does things" for our kiddos. I couldn't be happier to travel up to one of my favorite Idaho towns, rich with history, and force Josie to stop by Trudy's for some mile-high pie.
I'm not sure what I expected to see when I entered that rustic courthouse but I was shocked when I discovered the proceedings. I was invited in to the jury room with the Guardian ad Litem, the Guardian ad litem's attorney (the fantastic Mike Crawford), the prosecuting attorney Ross Pittman and the family's public defender Stephanie Riley. This amazing group worked together, alongside the Department of Health and Welfare case manager, shared information and came to the unanimous conclusion of the next steps that upheld the child's best interest.
As the family gathered in the courtroom, I thought "this is where things really must get difficult." These cases are highly emotional and are tough situations where there are a lot of parties involved. But, what did I see? I saw a team of attorneys, social workers, foster parents and family members all respectfully addressing the court and deferring to the expertise in the room. Wow! Such compassion! As icing on the cake, Judge Cockerille asked the child if she would like to add anything on the record. The words out of her mouth bowled me over.
"Thank you sir. I'd like to be reunified but want to do it right and that might take time. But, I have to go soon, I have to go take my school pictures!"
My heart melted. My many thanks to the tireless volunteer Guardians ad Litem, the generous pro-bono attorneys, foster parents and the involved agencies that help this kiddo get to her school pictures on time.
-Jaime Hansen, Executive Director