As most of you know, I started on this journey to establish Case Navigator™ last April, after a chance encounter outside Judge Witt’s courtroom, followed by a little “I wonder…” kind of thinking, and then a coffee meeting with Magdalena Reese, juvenile law attorney extraordinaire.
The journey thus far has allowed me to meet lots of great advocates for children and parents. It has shown me obstacles I never knew existed for parents—and the professionals who serve them. It has provided insight into how the legislative process works (or doesn’t work, as the case may be). It has forced me to fight with the IRS about something that is so simple as to boggle the mind (and unfortunately brought out a side of me I did not know existed. I learned I will, when pushed to the brink of agency idiocy, actually yell (but not swear) at people on the phone).
And I learned a very difficult lesson about not checking the information I am given.
When the bill was first filed, a colleague with legislative experience told me it was an appropriations bill, not subject to the normal funneling deadlines. There was no reason I shouldn’t have been able to rely on that, except that it was wrong. Although there was a provision for appropriations in the bill, it was not an appropriations bill. I didn’t get the correct information until after the first funneling deadline. And by then, it was too late. I nearly hyperventilated. All that work—gone in an instant because of incorrect information.
I was not angry with my colleague. I was mad at myself for not taking the simple step of double-checking what I was being told, about a process I knew nothing about. That’s my responsibility. I dropped the ball.
When I first discovered my mistake, I allowed myself only one day to rant, feel sorry for myself, and generally throw a pity party. Then I picked myself up and tried to salvage the bill by getting it re-filed as an appropriations bill. I also developed a “concurrent plan” in case I wasn’t successful in re-filing. I looked at a lot of different options, and then decided that my best option would be to reopen my law office, focusing on juvenile CINA cases. And in this extremely tight budget year, the bill was not re-filed, so I find myself forced to go to Plan B.
Interestingly, at a model court training session last week, I listened to experienced juvenile court attorneys express their frustrations about the process. All I could think was, “Case Navigator™ would solve that problem. Case Navigator™ would solve THAT problem, too.” And yes, I felt a bit of resentment that a bill that could solve so many problems for parents and the professionals that serve them was not passed.
I was also told that it would have been extremely unlikely that my bill (or nearly any bill like mine) would have passed in the first year. I was also told it was a good candidate for passage in year two. Will I rely on that? No. I will work as if that’s not true, and not rely on any false sense of “entitlement.”
After a bit of emotional and mental “space,” I asked myself, “What good can come of this?” As you might imagine, I resisted this initially. I was focused on the good that wouldn’t be realized because of the failure to pass this bill. But gradually I forced myself away from that (what good can come of dwelling on what isn’t to be?), and tried instead to think of what good could come of it. I realized that although I was familiar with the court process because of my CASA experience and my law degree generally, there would be valuable insights provided by actually practicing law in juvenile court. I would have even more credibility with legislators and others after practicing in juvenile court. I also decided that I would set a financial goal of earning enough money to self-fund the tech piece so I didn’t have to borrow that money. Even if I don’t earn enough in this year to completely fund it, every dollar I set aside is one less dollar I have to borrow (and repay with interest).
So here’s the plan: I will work very hard this year to do everything in my power to get Case Navigator™ passed in the next legislative session. I will meet with legislators across the state. I will familiarize myself with the legislative process so that I do not fail because of ignorance. And I will practice law in juvenile court so I can learn as much as possible from that perspective.
Failure is only permanent if you give up. I have no intention of giving up—this is too important.
Thank you to everyone who supported me this year. I hope I can count on your encouragement and support in this coming year as well.