Conduct In and Around the Courthouse and The Wisdom of Yoda
In the course of a single day, Adult Protective Services Specialists often wear several different hats: social worker, investigator, advocate, errand boy, doctor, Girl Friday, counselor, attorney, and a host of others. We’re Superman, Oprah, Marcus Welby MD., Wonder Woman and Perry Mason all rolled into one. We spend a lot of time in the courthouse, but only a small percentage of this time is actually spent in hearings. Waiting for hearings to begin. Visiting with the assistant district attorney and sitting in the judge’s foyer so that you can grab him for a signature are all opportunities to come into contact with law enforcement, judges, attorneys and others you may have to interact with.
I recently had occasion to conduct an investigation where a woman complained to police that little green men were visiting her home. She kept her drapes tightly closed, and had stopped running her air conditioner despite several days where the temperature reached the high 90s. During the initial interview, my client left me to go gather her pill bottles from the bathroom. You can imagine my surprise when suddenly there appeared a little green man. Well, not quite a man. It took a few seconds, but I soon realized that before me stood Yoda, the Jedi Master from the Star Wars movies. I flipped through my interview packet and quickly administered the Mini-Mental Status Exam to myself (28 of 30 since I spelled WORLD backwards incorrectly—that whole DLORW thing) as Yoda maneuvered himself into the client’s rocking chair and wrapped himself in her shawl.
“Patiently watched you, I have,” he began. “An APS worker must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh! Excitement. Heh! An APS worker craves not these things.”
Motioning for me to get a clean sheet of paper, Yoda told me to write down the following information to help me and my fellow APS workers:
- “If you choose the quick and easy path, you will become an agent of evil,” said Yoda. “A thorough investigation and documentation is the path to success in the courtroom. To be reactive is quicker, easier, more seductive. An excuse you use for not properly documenting your work. You must choose whether you are going to control your investigations or let your investigations control you. If another worker had to this case pick up, could they easily determine what the situation was and what information led to you capacity and substantiation decisions? If once you start down the dark path, forever it will dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice. Like the weight of the world does your INFOPAC seem? You it suffocates, dominates and consumes, destroying your self-worth. An out-of-control INFOPAC in an incapacitations condition. Anger… fear… aggression, the dark side of the job they are. Decide you will whether your work load is going to be a permanent or a temporarily incapacitating condition. Your work, plan and organize. One of the major differences between humans and animals is our ability to choose our priorities. If your work load choose you not to prioritize, your priorities will it choose for you. Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.”
- “Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.” No matter how much you plan, times there will be when respond immediately you must. When happen this does, adjust – not discard – your work plan.
- “Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings we are.” To remedy bad situations through voluntary services try we. But often, we are required to petition the court for guardianship, which means your legals must you prepare yourself. Good legals promote good will, and we can always use more of that. One less reason it gives judges and attorneys to be mad at you.
- Timeliness also promotes good will. “Only a fully trained APS worker with the law, policy and Legal Division as his ally will conquer Vader and his Emperor.” Yes, your Report and Plan of Care many judges and attorneys may not look before the hearing, but upon them let their laziness reflect.
- Yoda warned me, just as he did young Skywalker “Beware of the dark side.” Bad folks attorneys – and this includes judges – are not. At what they do good some are and some aren’t. Uptight some are, while others are laid back. Mean are some, some are nice. Their own style, demeanor, strengths and weaknesses have they – just like APS workers.
- “An APS worker’s strength flows from their integrity and our credibility flows from our honesty. Be honest to a fault, even when you have to say that you made a mistake, and blame never someone else. Trust with the court your integrity builds.
- About your personal life be discreet. Need you not to tell the judge, ADA and every defense attorney within earshot your life story. “Strong is Vader. Mind what you have learned. Save you it can” The judge doesn’t need to know that on drug charges she arraigned your ex-husband last week, or how much of a party animal you are. To discredit your witness an opposing attorney will seek. Give them not extra ammunition.
- Do not gripe about how over-worked you are, how little you’re paid, what idiots you have to work with or how much stress you are under. “You must learn control,” says Yoda.
- With your opinion of others discreet you must be. “You must feel the forces that be around you.” The judge’s sibling, fishing buddy or college roommate may be that worthless attorney you’re trashing.
- “Your ally is the law. A powerful ally it is.” Title 43A0.S. § 10-101 through 10-111 know. Not familiar with these are a lot of judges and ADAs, and then even less know the clients’ attorneys. A hodgepodge of Child Welfare and Mental Health law and procedure will they often try to an APS matter make. You need to know that our statutes do not a right to trial by jury provide. An attorney need you not be to know the law that governs our program. “An APS. worker uses the law for knowledge and defense, never for attack.”
- Remember that though backwards and forwards know you Title 43A0.S. 10-l0l through 10-111:
- An attorney you are not
- Open to interpretation the law is. Some points may be valid but may not agree with yours.
- “Ahhh A great warrior. Wars not make one great.” You should pick and choose your battles. It is best to live to fight another day i.e. make not your judge and/or ADA so mad that future clients won’t get the services they need, or that you wind up spending a night in jail. Consider if that particular hill is worth dying on.
- Yoda said, “Do not underestimate the powers of the Emperor.” When you cross that county line, you’re in that judge’s jurisdiction. Realize that even though the Legislature did away with 10-day orders in November 1998, you may not have seen the last of them.
- Neglect not yourself. “Patience! For the APS worker, it is time to eat as well.” If make you not time for yourself, nobody else will. Don’t let your job consume so much of you that you have nothing left to give to the job. “When 900-years-old you reach, look as good you will not Hmm?”
Lastly he said, “Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.” and Yoda faded away, the shawl falling Iifelessly to the ground as my client appeared from the kitchen with a Wal-Mart bag full of pill bottles. Difficult though it was, I finished my interview. She was puzzled why her nightly visitor kept mumbling something about a John Brown who lived in Chicago on Market Street, but otherwise was fine. This one goes unsubstantiated, but how am I going to get all this in the three lines they give me on the APS-2? Oh well. Wonder who I’ll see on my 30-day follow-up? . . .