Trial by Fire

Let’s see if we can illustrate this situation correctly.

This post warrants an R-rated warning, as the situation we are describing is related to what too many experience in family law cases, and involves horror, trauma and the loss of children, property, health and sanity.   Do not read further if you do not have some degree of tolerance for witnessing something bad happening to others, especially children.

Frame One:

You see a house.  There are lights on in the house and it is getting dark outside.  You hear noise coming from the house and realize it is the sound of a child crying desperately for help.  The child needs rescuing…because the house is on fire, and is becoming consumed by the flames.

Frame Two:

The parent of this child – let’s make this the “caregiver parent” (can be either the mother OR the father, use whichever works in your mind) – races to the rescue of this child, only to be hit with a wall of scorching heat.

Frame Three:

Screeching sounds are heard from the tires of the fire truck that has just arrived.  The parent screams to the fireman to hurry – as the responder grabs the fire hose off the truck.  He reassures the desperate parent that the fire will soon be out and the child will be OK.  He tells the parent to stand back, out of the way, and let him do his job. He says, “You’ll be fine.  Just do what I say; I’ve never lost a child so you’re in good hands.”  The parent believes, praying…

Frame Four:

The fireman waves the hose at the house and child – appearing to be putting out the fire – but no water is coming out of the hose.  More desperate screaming from the child and her parent.  And now you can hear the crying of the other children clinging to the parent watching their sibling writhe in pain, fear etched on her face seen through the window.

Frame Five:

The parent rushes the fireman who is pulling back from the fire, beating on him to do something as he pushes them away.   He thrusts his hand up saying, “I’m going to get chemicals to put on the fire – that will work.  Just stay put and shoves them back onto the street.”  The parent feels helpless and even more terrified, but counting on this next thing to work.  Still believing.  The fireman grabs buckets from the truck and walks back to the house, making a big show of hurling something from the bucket onto the fire.  Nothing comes out of the buckets.  The fire gets bigger.

Frame Six:

The house is now collapsing on the child.  The parent buckles in grief and goes into shock. You can only imagine how the other children are feeling taking all this in.  The fireman pries the parent’s desperate hands off his arm and says, “Well I tried.  That’s all I can say.  What did you expect?  Did you pay your tax bill?  And you shouldn’t have walked out of your house without your kid.”  It’s not his fault.  But it’s yours, and you shouldn’t dare question his efforts.

Frame Seven:

Everything is gone, including the parent’s sanity.  The guilt was just too much.

Frame Eight:

The parent sees this same situation play out with another family – only hearing the same message given to another parent creates the realization that the fire COULD HAVE BEEN STOPPED.  It seems the fireman KNEW the fire would burn the house down, taking the child with it, and KNEW he would not be putting out the fire.  Which means he could have properly prepared and ensured he’d be able to save the child – and maybe even the house.

Also – How did he know where the fire would be, and that there would be a child in there?  What is going on?   The parent is now asking questions, and asking other parents to report in.   They realize there are “fires” everywhere.

So what do we do about it?  Just go on about our business and hope the fire doesn’t hit our home, or our children, next??   Do we just pay the enormous bills being sent to us on the heels of enormous loss and suffering, and allow liens to be filed on our remaining homes to cover fees for services that were not effective, and in some cases not even rendered?

The reality of the family court dilemma is not so far off from what is described above, and unfortunately the damages are just as lasting – to the lost children, to the parents and to all children caught in the environment observing and experiencing the trauma of others.   Our communities, schools and neighborhoods are feeling the impact.  Our responders who ARE good at what they do, who are honest and hard-working, are at a loss for the right information about what is causing this damage.

Start with asking the right questions.  And know that not all professionals are created the same.  Some do have empathy, commitment and talent that they will employ for your benefit.  Get informed, be prepared.

Copyrighted material.  My Advocate Center, 2013.