Tuesday, March 12, 2013

First Court Date - Kenya Adoption

We had our first court date on the 22nd of February. (Yes, I certainly am behind in my posts!)  Family court is held on Fridays here in Nairobi.

We dressed up in our finest professional outfits, not sure what to expect, only told to dress 'official'. Jackets that made sweat drip down our back and shoes not made for comfort.

We went through security, left our passports at the entrance and carried on upstairs. Thankfully, some other 'experienced' adopting parents were able to recognize the confusion on our faces and directed us to the proper place to wait.

We were listed as one of the first cases to be seen. Traffic is a nightmare downtown in the mornings, so we allowed 2 hours to get there. Luckily, we arrived with half an hour to spare. Z, started to play with some of the other children there... and of course as Murphy's law dictates that she would choose this time to become possessive over a toy that did not belong to her and hence start a big crying session right when we were introduced the lady who heads our Kenyan agency. I am almost certain that she is able to recognize my weakest moments of not being in a position to discipline, as she never behaves this way. However, not one to give into public tantrums,  I apologized and we took a 'time in' on a far away bench.

During this time of trying to reason (pleading) with her to stop crying... I was closely watching my watch. Court was about to be in session and our Guardian Ad Litem had not yet arrived. The whole purpose of the first court visit is to legally have the child's guardian appointed. Her presence is mandatory.

As time ticked on and court started, I asked our lawyer if we should call her. 'It will be okay', he said. 'Calling her will not change her location, she will not arrive any faster.' Hakuna Matata I guess! I was almost starting to feel like I was going to lose my breakfast, thinking of what her absence could cause in timing of our adoption process. 9:25... Thompson's were called. No Guardian. Our time slot had to be passed on to the next family. My heart sank. Ugh. I had heard horror stories of this happening, and the process was that you had to wait for a new court date.

9:38 and she finally arrives. 38 minutes after court went into session. I don't know how or what our lawyer had to do to get us put back in the cue, but he managed it. Very quickly, we were ushered by our lawyer into court, and seated on the second bench with our guardian and social worker.

The judge spoke and was so quietly spoken, I honestly never heard a word! I do know, the lawyer announced our presence, in addition to the social worker and the guardian. The judge then called our guardian to stand and asked her if she had ever done this job before. Her answer was yes.

 'So you know what is expected of you then?'

She replied with a yes, and then just as quickly we were ushered in, we were ushered out. The entire procedure perhaps took 3 minutes, and quite frankly, I am still confused as to the necessity of the adopted families presence or the necessity for this to even require court time... when they are so bogged down as is. Perhaps this is a step that can be simplified in the future, but for now, it is what it is.

Before we can get our second court date, we need to have an interview with the Children's Dept in addition to having a home assessment done. After this, they will submit a report. Once this is done, we can request a second date.

Courts are closed for Easter for a month from March 15th - April 12th, so we fear backlog in the system, especially with the delays and closures already caused by elections. Fingers crossed please!

Z looks into the Milimani Court estate.

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