Family Court from social worker's perspective
The following letter was sent to the Family Court task force with a copy submitted to the Cape Gazette for publication.
My name is Brendan Buschi. I have lived in Delaware since 1996. I am semi-retired and currently reside in Milton. I have been continuously licensed as an independent social work practitioner since 1975. I have had clinical licenses in New York, Virginia, Colorado, Maryland and Delaware. At various times I have testified in family court proceedings in all of the above mentioned states plus New Hampshire.
I have received a mental health advocate award in New York State and the distinguished alumni award from my graduate school. I have served as an advisor to the Suffolk County Health Committee in New York and was appointed by Gov. Minner to Delaware’s Child Placement Review Board.
I am no stranger to Family Court. My perspective has been formed by my experiences in six states. Whether Family Court proceedings should be “open” or held behind “closed doors” should depend upon what is most likely to benefit the children whose lives are severely impacted by what happens in Family Court.
The most common outcome I have observed over the years I have functioned as both an active and expert witness at these proceedings is the further, long term abuse of the children involved.
Children are the victims of their parents’ actions in regards to family court matters. They are not the only victims, but they are the most vulnerable victims. Providing an advocate for the child does not seem to change the distress heaped upon the children as a result of Family Court proceedings.
The issues of child support and child custody are the overriding issues at Family Court. Regardless of how the lawyers spin their clients’ cases, money and property are the underlying concerns. Children are the cannon fodder. Children are just part of the property to be settled.
Once in New Hampshire, I advised a Family Court judge that a particular child was at risk. I testified that what was going on in the court was only making matters worse. The judge was none too happy with my assessment and dismissed my recommendations.
Three years later when the child committed suicide by shooting himself in the head in a parking lot the judge and attorneys and advocate and other contributors to this tragedy were nowhere to be found.
This certainly was the worst outcome I personally observed from any Family Court hearing I attended. Other outcomes resulted in physical and sexual abuse of children. I’ve seen children lose their extended families, friends and neighbors. It is not uncommon for children to become estranged from one parent or one set of grandparents and assorted uncles and aunts, cousins and even siblings.
I cannot help but feel that opening up family court proceeding to the light of day would be a significant inhibitor to the disturbing things that go on in those courts. That is certainly not the only thing that needs to be done, but it is the single thing that will set the stage for how the various Family Court actors behave.
Most muggings take place on dark streets and alleyways.
Finally, I would like to say that I have had decades of experience with the issue of client “confidentiality.” While I agree that this is an important issue, I regret to say that I have most often seen the issue raised by practitioners who seek to avoid accountability for the various malpractices they themselves have been guilty of.
Make no mistake, what takes place in Family Court reverberates in the households, schools and communities throughout Delaware. Poor school performance, poor work performance, crime, substance abuse, and severe, incapacitating emotional distress are just some of the Family Court byproducts.
Ask yourself “who always gains from Family Court proceedings?” The judges, the lawyers, the therapists, and the advocates always come away with a financial benefit. You can’t say the same for the children.
Brendan Buschi, MSW, LCSW (retired)