Climbing the Broken Judicial Ladder continues the author’s journey of exploring the heartbreak and loss of first adopting Cordelia with severe reactive attachment disorder (RAD) in Washington state and then of nearly losing her to the draconian and confused child welfare legal complex in Los Angeles.
In this third volume of his Denied! Failing Cordelia trilogy, Cambridge climbs the broken California judicial ladder from the California Court of Appeals (Second Appellate District) based in Los Angeles to the California Supreme Court. Cambridge concludes that in appeals relating to dependency cases, the ladder is broken for parents seeking to advocate for themselves and for the true best interests of their children. Policies relating to child welfare are flawed, Cambridge argues, because of the preemptive and prejudicial response to the issues raised during the detention of children.
As with his two earlier books, Cambridge explores issues connected with how best to parent his adopted daughter and advocate for her needs in the context of a dependency case. Cordelia’s reactive attachment disorder would surface throughout the judicial struggle as would the author’s own struggles with Asperger syndrome. Each would feed negatively into the overall trauma and drama of the author’s unrelenting quest to reunite his “forever family.” Cambridge believes that dependency proceedings are ill-equipped on many levels to elicit a proper understanding of RAD or of the therapeutic parenting needed to address it.
Cambridge believes that adoptive parents of children with special needs need to be understood by more sympathetic social workers and by therapists trained in attachment disorders. Cambridge’s persistent efforts to reunite his “forever family” would leave him increasingly isolated as he climbs the judicial ladder.
Based on his experiences, Cambridge explores areas for reform in Los Angeles dependency proceedings and evokes Shakespeare’s King Lear by arguing that social workers need to “see better” and that the Los Angeles Juvenile Dependency Court needs to encourage a broader understanding of the issues raised through more effective legal advocacy from assigned dependency lawyers. Cambridge argues that parents should be allowed to address the court directly.
Cambridge also relates how he and his daughter have found many positive and healthy ways to heal in the years since their dependency case ended. Much trauma could have been avoided if those around them had “seen better” and had recognized the value in their dramatic and loving adoption journey.