Last week we gave some attention to a problem we all know exists but that we wish we could make go away with pixie dust. It is not that you and I or our fellow citizens are uncaring about children and families caught in the maelstrom of child and spousal physical abuse or child sexual abuse or child neglect or alcohol and drug addiction. It is we instinctively know the cure will be painfully expensive and emotionally exhausting, to say nothing of how the resources we dedicate to these problems must be diverted from others. On the other hand, we know if we do not address our Children in Need of Services crisis now society will certainly pay a much greater price later. And that need for current and future self-preservation does not even consider our moral obligations.
When Peg notices a chore at JPeg Ranch that must be done (by me, of course), there is a fairly consistent litany of procedure. She notes something, say a decaying window sill, moles multiplying like moles, a tree about to fall in the pond, well, you get the idea. Here is how things normally progress. I pretend deafness and blindness. When that wears thin I tell her I will take care of it on the weekend. Sometimes I tell her it probably would be cheaper to wait until we have a full-blown disaster. Finally, she prevails with threats of making me turn off a ballgame or, the most unkindest of all, saying she will just call someone else to do it.
At this point I will have to go to Bud’s Hardware at least twice because I can never find where I stored the bolts or screws, etc., from the last time I jerry-rigged a project. Then it comes down to actual manual labor and occasionally a trip to the E-Room for repair of the repairer.
Well, my fellow Posey County citizens that’s where we are with our Child in Need of Services (CHINS) situation. We must take our medicine. As the Circuit Court Judge in charge of judicial solutions to these matters I have been approached by numerous fellow public servants and other concerned citizens with suggestions. Just last week after a morning spent in a two-hour hearing involving one very blended family that required eight publicly appointed attorneys I ran into Posey County Councilman Aaron Wilson who told me he believed we should consider creating a Posey Circuit Court Magistrate position that would be dedicated to children and family cases. This approach to our current crisis has many reasonable elements and great potential benefits, not the least of which is the saving of taxpayer money.
Of course, as Aaron said, our first obligation is to provide public services, but we should attempt to do so in a reasonable manner. Efficiency in government is a good thing. Let’s examine my case from last week.
Because the Posey Circuit Court is charged with handling many important matters besides CHINS cases and there is only one Circuit Judge and only one Circuit Courtroom cases must be jammed into artificial schedules. For example, the same week as the case in question I had criminal felony and misdemeanor cases, probate matters, civil lawsuits, divorce cases and innumerable logistical issues to address. So the CHINS cases had to be stuffed into the space of one day, mainly one morning.
This required numerous publicly appointed attorneys in other cases to wait for hours as we processed the one in front of me. Of course, many citizens were also forced to simply wait around as if the Court were an emergency room at a city hospital. Such a procedure is more akin to the watching sausage being made analogy than seeing justice delivered.
With this in mind, next week I will try to put some drywall compound on Councilman Wilson’s excellent suggestion of a Posey Circuit Court Magistrate, unless, of course, Peg fills my time with as yet unseen disasters at The Ranch.