Kristin sensed anger in the courtroom when she returned to deliver the news. As she called for order, Mary slipped through the door connected to Kristin’s chambers, looking confident and in control. Kristin punted and asked Mary to explain the need for a crisis intervention.
Mary ignored the hostile looks and gave a clinical description of Jordan’s cutting and her concerns. “This is a mental health emergency. If she is transitioned so suddenly to her aunt and the aunt’s fiancé right now, we will lose her. She will either enter a catatonic state or attempt to harm herself. I’ll prepare a report for the court. If the law compels her to leave her foster mother and live with her aunt, then it’s going to have to be done gradually. Jordan is clearly on the edge. I’ll speak with anyone who wishes to do that back in my office after I fill out the paperwork.”
Kristin flashed her a smile of gratitude. A backup with Mary’s credentials was helpful in these tough cases. Jordan’s aunt looked compliant, even resigned, and Kristin was about to conclude the hearing when Luke Haller spoke up.
“Judge, I’ve never heard of something so unfair. We’re Jordan’s relatives. We’ve come to claim her and all of a sudden you snatch her away into your chambers and the next thing we hear about is a crisis intervention. What’s this all about? Who the hell is the doctor you suggest we visit?”
Kristin was taken aback. Haller had been polite, though rather pushy, in the earlier hearing. Perhaps he was just upset, worried about Jordan. Still, she had to draw the line with him. He was teetering on contempt.
“Mr. Haller, let’s get a few things straight. First of all, you have no legal standing to even speak in this case, unless I allow it. You are not Jordan’s relative. As far as I’m concerned you are simply her aunt’s fiancé. Next, Jordan is a beautiful young woman but still a fragile little girl. She is not an aging racehorse that you can claim as you suggest.
“I’m going to attribute your comments and your demeanor to confusion about what Jordan is going through. I believe you to be well meaning. You certainly spoke of Jordan’s best interest with sincerity. Let’s forget this overreaction on your part and concentrate on Jordan getting well.”
Kristin continued. “I came back to the courtroom to describe Jordan’s cutting, the words and the blood, her suicidal thoughts and Dr. Visconti’s recommendation. The doctor is a very experienced child psychologist who is offering to spend some time with all of you in her office. I suggest you thank her and take advantage of her expertise. “
Kristin felt flushed, angry and disappointed in the people who stood before her. She was about to bang her gavel down to end the proceedings when Mary spoke up.
“Judge, if you don’t mind I can save them some time by explaining things further right now.”
“If you would, please,” Kristin replied.
Mary looked at each of the parties involved. “I work for the court. I examined Jordan and I am concerned with her mental state. She is cutting her arms and she has imminent thoughts of suicide with true intent. I’ve initiated a Baker Act, which means that she has been transported to the crisis unit. Most likely, she will be there for a minimum of seventy-two hours.”
The aunt looked agitated, her overdone makeup beginning to flake off, exposing a harder face. Haller looked chastened but he tried again.
“We want to take her home. She can heal with us.”
“I don’t think so, Mr. Haller. I am here solely at Judge Dahlen’s request to perform an emergency evaluation of Jordan. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but Jordan would rather harm herself–even kill herself–than go home with the two of you.”
“Maybe she’s being manipulative,” Haller said, sharply. “Her foster mother could be influencing her.”
Cecelia Holland looked grief-stricken and embarrassed. Haller gave Paula Travers, the case supervisor, an impatient look. She avoided his gaze.
How odd, Kristin thought. What’s between them? She was tempted to criticize Travers for sharing confidential information with Haller, but she didn’t want to take the focus off Jordan.
Mary spoke again. “I can’t tell you what’s behind Jordan’s motivations entirely. I can tell you she has done better with Ms. Holland that she has in years, until this custody issue came up. Forcing her to go home with you at this point would be mental cruelty. She needs treatment. Let’s see what the professionals say at the crisis unit. Meanwhile any attempt you make to force her to leave with you will be a reportable offense. I suggest that you work with Judge Dahlen and the treatment team at this point.”
Mary walked towards the outer door of the courtroom, signaling for the foster mother to follow her.
Kristin admired her deftness and poise. Way to go, Mary!
Kristin said, “I have one last thing to say today, before I adjourn the proceedings and set another status hearing a month from now.” She heard Haller’s “Shit,” said intentionally loud.
“That is to remind everyone here that this beautiful young lady under so much stress manages to maintain a four-point average in a magnet school, runs track and acts as a youth leader in her church. I think we should focus on all her talents and needs, not on petty disputes between adults.”
When she returned to her empty chambers she found a note on scribbled on a yellow legal pad on her desk.
“I’ll take ten kids committing crimes over one foster child any day. Mary.”
“A chink in her armor,” she said to no one.