The lawyers in my firm do a lot of work as Guardians Ad Litem. A Guardian Ad Litem represents dependent and neglected children in court proceedings and is focused solely on serving the best interests of the child. Sometimes, temporary custody is awarded to a family member while the child's parents work on whatever issues they need to work on to get their child back (e.g. drug dependency issues, domestic violence, etc).
Sometimes, the parents are beyond saving and in those cases we move straight for termination of parental rights and place the child in foster care. We continue to represent the child until permanency is achieved (adoption) but in the interim, we visit the child in placement and that part of my job has been really tough.
On my first day of work, I did back-to-back home visits of children in placement. Both children were with family members and, I thought, both were doing well. Other people in my office disagreed with one of my assessments and at least one child has been removed from the care of her relative and placed into a foster home. Maybe the child should have been removed and maybe she shouldn't have been - the decision to do either is not easy - but the basis on which the child was removed didn't sit well with me.
I cannot not say too much but the bottom line is lawyers, for the sake of their clients must consider cultural difference when working in certain fields like immigration, family law, and yes, child protection. Ignorance of those cultural differences can lead lawyers to misinterpret actions and facts.
I have talked about my background a lot: female minority raised in New Mexico. I feel I understand Latino culture much better than my Caucasian counterpart, who was raised in the Midwest, and who accompanied me on the home visit. So when I am in a Latino persons home, going through their closets, peeking into their bedrooms, and asking all sorts of personal questions, I am not surprised he is defensive.
I don't automatically think "Oh, this person is defensive because he or she has something to hide" I think "Latinos are private people and prefer to handle problems within their family and community therefore it is probably very difficult to have strangers in their home asking pointed questions about how they are with their own family." I get it.
But as a newbie, not even a baby attorney yet, who was tagging along with a more experienced person, my opinion was disregarded. That child was removed to foster care and it haunts me. And I wonder: can I really do this without having an emotional breakdown every single week?