“This is an informal hearing. Should I find that we need to formally file charges, then we’ll have an arraignment hearing at a later time. In the meantime, I would like to understand why we are here,” the judge said, with an undertone of annoyance.
“Your honor, approximately six months ago, witnesses claimed they saw Priscilla taking unidentified pills, and they claimed she had heroin, as well. She was sent to a rehabilitation facility, where we thought she had overcome her problem. She was then placed in the home of Leonard and Sherri Bazemore, and seemed to do well there. However, when she was told that the Bazemore’s would be moving, she apparently returned to her old ways, and was witnessed providing heroin to other children,” Mrs. Rafferty told him.
“With charges of this nature, why isn’t the DA or a probation officer presenting this case to me?” the judge asked.
“I have presented juvenile justice cases in the past, and I’m qualified to do so, your honor,” she replied.
“That did not answer my question, but I will ignore that, for the moment,” he said, then turned his eyes to Lilly.
“Young lady, you do not have an attorney, as yet, and hopefully you won’t need one. Be that as it may, what do you have to say for yourself?” he asked.
“Sir, I have never done drugs, I hate them. I’d like to have a blood test, or whatever test is needed, to show I’ve never used them. I’ve never sold drugs, or given them to anyone, either. If there are people that say I gave them to someone, I’d like to know who, if I can,” she said. “Your honor,” she quickly added. He smiled at her quickly added honorific.
“Mrs. Rafferty, the child has expressed a valid request. What say you?” he asked.
“We would be willing to provide the blood and urine test, your honor, but the witnesses are not currently available,” she told him.
“If the witnesses are not available, then you have no case, Mrs. Rafferty. If you had involved the DA, or a probation officer, as is proper, they would have obtained any witnesses, or not pursued a knowingly tenuous case. In other words, the DAs office would not have wasted my time. The next time you bring a juvenile before me, make sure you have someone that understands law to present your allegations, along with all relevant witnesses and evidence,” he said, then paused, looking at her for a moment.
“Do you at least have the casefile for Priscilla?” he asked.
“Yes, your honor,” she replied, withdrawing a folder from her briefcase.
He opened it and flipped through it for only a few moments. “Mrs. Rafferty, why are you here?” he asked, and it was obvious that he was now angry, even if he hadn’t been before.
“To present charges of drug use, possession and dealing, along with prostitution, your honor,” she replied, looking nervous.
“This girl has no criminal history. None at all, and you have laid charges against her that if filed, could forever harm her. Within her file are innuendo and speculative statements, at best. In addition, you have brought no evidence and no witnesses for these allegations. You also failed to engage the proper officials in bringing these allegations before me. Are you simply incompetent, or are you operating with malice toward this child?” he asked, his face becoming slightly flushed.
When she didn’t answer, he said, quietly but with the force of his will, “Are you suddenly without words?” He waited a moment longer, then said, “If I ever see you in my office, or in my courtroom again, without having gone through the DA, or a probation officer, I will charge you with contempt. Do you understand me?”
“Yes, your honor,” she replied, trying to be meek.
The judge sat, thinking for a few moments, then seemed to come to some decision. “Who is your supervisor?” he then asked.
“James Cardigan, your honor,” she said.
“Cathy, get James Cardigan over here, please,” he called out.
“Yes, sir,” they heard.
They waited another 30 minutes for James Cardigan to arrive. During that time, there was absolute silence. When he was eventually escorted in, he quickly looked at the three people there, only recognizing Mrs. Rafferty.
“Please take a seat, Mr. Cardigan,” the judge commanded, and there was no mistaking it as anything else.
“Yes, your honor,” the man answered.
Once he was seated, the judge began, “Mrs. Rafferty brought Priscilla Pimlott to me, claiming this child violated a variety of drug offenses, along with prostitution. She has presented no evidence, not even having performed a basic drug test. Her witnesses are non-existent, at least some of them I know to be unreliable, and she failed to follow the proper protocol for bringing charges to the juvenile justice system. Is this a failure in training for your department, or a failure of the individual?” the judge asked.
“Your honor, please forgive my ignorance, but aside from the obvious mishandling of the case, and any evidence, what protocol did she violate?” Cardigan asked.
“Your caseworker failed to go through the DAs office in bringing criminal charges before me. If she had engaged the District Attorney, as she should have, that office would have made sure everything was in order before this ever became a waste of my very valuable time. Considering this child has no record of any offenses, they would have likely resolved it informally, saving the taxpayers a very large amount of money,” he said.
“Please accept my apologies, your honor. We will get to the bottom of this internally, and if it is a lack of training, I promise it will be resolved. If it is an error on the part of Mrs. Rafferty, I will ensure she does not repeat this mistake,” he said.
“I will accept that. There is one other item I need to address, now,” he said, then glanced at Lilly, who tried to melt into the chair she was seated in, as his gaze turned to her.
“You have nothing to fear, young lady. As far as I can tell, you have done nothing wrong,” he told her, with a kind smile. “If you ever do break the law, you will then have something to fear,” he said, and looked back to James Cardigan.
“Although I am a lawyer, and work with evidence and what can be proven, I am going to present something that is purely supposition. It is my belief that Mrs. Rafferty operated with malice toward this child. What reason she would have done so, I have no idea. As I said, that is only my belief. Regardless, it will hurt no one to place this child with a different case worker, just to be safe,” he suggested.
“I will take your suggestion under advisement, your honor,” he said.
“Please do. It would be a shame if I discovered that mismanagement of a minor crossed the line into child endangerment,” he said, then stood up. He extended his hand to James Cardigan, who shook it. The three of them then left, the judge remaining in his chambers.
Once they had left the judge’s chambers, James Cardigan stopped them, and looked at Meredith Rafferty. There was a very pronounced wait before he finally spoke.
“Meredith, you do know better than that. If you EVER repeat this mistake, I will make sure you are removed from my division,” he told her, then turned to Lilly. “I have no idea if any of the charges against you are real, or not, and frankly, I don’t care right now. I am going to do exactly what he told me, but you are going to a rehab facility, just to be safe,” he said.
“I’ve never done drugs! Why do I have to go there again?” she yelled.
“Please keep your voice down,” he began.
“Go to hell!” she screamed. “You’re sending me to that shit hole, and you think I’m going to be quiet? You’re stupid as shit!” she railed at him.
Not wanting to cause further disturbance, he firmly took her by the shoulder and led her through the building, and into the parking lot. She continued yelling the entire way, but didn’t run, as she was tempted to do.
“You’re just as much of an asshole as she is,” Lilly complained, as she was thrust into the back of a car. Half an hour later, she was back in rehabilitation, for something she’d never done. She quickly discovered, she wasn’t there for drug rehabilitation, though. She was being treated for behavior issues, which only infuriated her further.
Mrs. Rafferty came to get me today. She had promised to let me stay until Sherri and Leonard left, but like everyone else, she lied. They all lie, at some point, other than Horace. On the way to my next foster home, she accused me of giving drugs to kids, which is stupid. Of course, she didn’t believe me when I said I didn’t, and I got mad and called her a bitch, which she is. I ran away, when she stopped the car. She’s not fast enough to catch me. :) I ran to Horace. He calmed me down, like he always does, and made me go back to Mrs. Rafferty. I didn’t like it, but I know he was right. He always is. He did tell me to make them show evidence if they have any, and to get them to do a drug test on me if they accuse me of doing drugs. I asked for the test but she wouldn’t do it. I did get her to take me to a judge, like he said. The judge scared me. I don’t EVER want to go to him if I do something wrong. The judge chewed her out. I loved it!! Her boss also chewed her out, which I loved, but he also chewed me out, even though I didn’t do anything. At the end of it, I’m back in rehab, and I didn’t do anything to be here. Life really sucks, so bad!
After two months, well into Christmas break, she was finally being released from what she viewed as prison. She was more angry than when she arrived, although they deemed her ready to return to a regular foster home.
“Good afternoon, Priscilla,” a bright eyed, and happy woman said. “I’m Iris Perkins, your new caseworker. I hope we can learn to trust one another, and work well together. I want to make your time, until you find a permanent family, as enjoyable as possible. Okay?” she asked.
“Whatever,” Lilly replied. She’d given up on the ‘system’. These people did nothing to help her, and actually made things worse. She had turned twelve while in rehab, and that added to her current displeasure.
“Let’s put on a smile, shall we?” her new caseworker urged her. She returned the woman a mock smile, which lasted all of five seconds, before her drab expression returned.
“Priscilla, I’m wondering if your time trying to rehabilitate was successful,” she said.
“Yeah, it helped me a lot,” Lilly replied, her tone dripping the sarcasm she felt.
“Mr. Mullins, I think you have made a mistake,” she told the man that had brought Lilly out of the confinement area.
“How so, Mrs. Perkins?” he asked, a look of seemingly honest curiosity on his face.
“She is clearly not ready to be released. Her behavior is not what I would expect from your program,” she told him.
“Come with me, Priscilla,” he said, and placed a very firm hand on her shoulder.
“Please! I’ll do better. I promise!” she pleaded, realizing she might have made a mistake in her attitude. She definitely didn’t want to go back in there.
“Mrs. Perkins, this is your decision,” he said, pausing.
“Priscilla, I will give you this chance. If I do not see improvement in your attitude and behavior, you will return. Do you understand?” she said, the sunny disposition altered into something like stone.
“Yes, ma’am,” Lilly replied.
“Now that we have gotten that past us, I would like to take you to your new home. There are other foster children there, but they have plenty of space, and being a Christian home, and you being Christian, you should fit in wonderfully,” she said, the smile and pleasant attitude back in place, as if it had never left.
Lilly really didn’t like her, but she had no choice but to be nice and respectful. If she wasn’t, she had no doubt she’d be sent back in ‘there’.
Once they were in the car, Mrs. Perkins said, “I understand your previous caseworker made some mistakes. I want one thing to be very clear to you. I will not repeat her mistakes. If I believe you are in any way touching drugs, or involved in any gang activity, you will return to rehabilitation. If there is real evidence, I will bring you to the juvenile court intake officer, and he will decide your fate. Should that happen, I promise, it will not be nice,” she said.
“I’ve never done drugs,” Lilly said, a claim she’d repeated way too often.
“I hope that is and remains true. Just keep my warning in mind, and we’ll do fine,” she said, just as she stopped the car in front of a house.
“This home is relatively close to the last two homes you have been in. Although you’re moving up to middle school next year, we’re trying to keep you in the same school district, so you have some consistency in your life,” the caseworker said.
The place Lilly looked at, although not shabby, was worn looking. There was a reddish look to the lower half of the house, although it was painted a bluish gray color. Lilly knew the red was from the red clay dirt splashing on the lower part of the house during rain storms. There was a small amount of debris in the yard, but it didn’t look nasty, or neglected. There was a chain link fence around the yard, with evidence of a dog, maybe more than one.
Lilly allowed her mind to go out, something she hadn’t done in a while, but thought she probably needed to do more often. Animals had helped her several times, and she knew she needed to use everything she could to survive. It was clear to her that no one else was going to help her, other than maybe Horace, but he wasn’t always there.
It took only a few seconds for her to feel the minds of three dogs. She was pretty sure they were dogs, but she was still too unused to her ability to be certain. Then something happened that made her nauseous and the world felt like it was spinning. Her vision suddenly changed, becoming cloudy, the colors muted. Along with the altered vision, she could smell things incredibly well, frighteningly so. She could also hear things much more sharply than she ever could before. With the sudden disorientation, she collapsed into the back seat of the car.
When she finally regained her senses, Mrs. Perkins was standing over her. The woman looked very worried.
“Priscilla, what’s wrong?” the woman asked, a pleading tone in her voice.
It took Lilly a few seconds to think enough to reply. When she finally did, she sat up, looked at Mrs. Perkins and gave her a wisp of a smile. “I’m okay. Must not have eaten enough,” she said.
“Are you sure?” Mrs. Perkins asked.
“Yes, ma’am,” she replied.
“Here’s my card. Call me if you have any problems, alright?” she said, and Lilly nodded, stuffing the card into the pocket of her sweats. Mrs. Perkins then helped Lilly out of the car, even carrying her bag. When they stepped onto the porch, the front door opened. Standing there were two somewhat heavy set people.
Both had black hair, with grey streaked through it. The man’s hair was very short, close to being buzzed, and he had a goatee. He was wearing khaki slacks and a light blue, button up shirt that was buttoned all the way up. The way he looked, Lilly would have expected a tie. The woman’s hair was impossibly long, almost to her butt. She was wearing a denim skirt that went to her ankles, and a heavy button up shirt. Although she couldn’t figure out what it was, there was something in their eyes that unnerved her.
I almost screwed up when my new caseworker came to get me. I was a little more sassy than I should have been, I guess. She almost put me back in rehab. I promised to be better, and she didn’t put me back. She took me to my new placement. These people are really creepy.