Joshua Roberts: For my friend, with love


Just tell the truth, I love you, everything will be fine, I said to the friend wrapped inside my arms.

We were on the courthouse’s second floor, sharing a quick hug, she seconds from testifying in the custody case, me awaiting outcome of the closed hearing in the hallway.

My final words — everything will be fine — were a lie. I didn’t know it then, but I’d deceived her.

She disappeared behind wooden doors into the courtroom, believing she’d keep her miracle, the orphaned infant boy who appeared like heaven’s reward.

I should have known better, that hope and good intentions only go so far. I should have warned her.

While waiting, I sent text messages to friends and colleagues hoping for good news.

Love for this woman, our friend, was universal, the support circle a beautiful display of humanity and compassion.

She’s testifying now. Let you know when I know.

She’s on the stand. Fingers crossed.

Hope for the best.

I obliged her request and offered prayer.

Take care of her, Lord.

Please let this work out.

She deserves that little boy.

He deserves her.

None of it mattered.

They were efficient in their task, the shortsighted judge and inept attorneys, servants of a legal system mired in detritus.

They tore our friend down in 26 minutes, ripping away what she held sacred.

She ran from the courtroom, tears down her face, searching for escape.

Motherhood had become her past just then, a dream captured and lost, a prayer delivered and denied once more.

I didn’t go after her at first. I didn’t know what to say, do, how to make things better. My feet felt shackled to the floor, like I was locked in neutral.

Finally, I snapped awake, moved, reached out, grabbed her.

Held her close.

She spoke through cries.

She recounted her testimony, the failures of an unprepared and overmatched state’s attorney, the deceptive statements and arguments by the other side, the judge who bought into the charade.

They’d take the foster boy from her in a few days, give him to someone unworthy to raise him.

I flashed white-hot, disbelief and anger burning nuclear in my blood.

I concealed this.

Care for her now. She’s what matters.

She’d been plunged in the eye of an emotional hurricane and needed help, the little I could give.

I got her home a few minutes later.

I hadn’t said much.

Just listened.

She spoke. Her question doesn’t haunt me as much as the absence of an answer.

Why would God put him in my life only to take him away?

There is no emotion so deflating, no feeling so soul robbing, as being helpless while someone you care about is hurting. There is nothing that hollows a stomach, nothing that eviscerates hope like this feeling.

I couldn’t answer her question then nor can I today.

I don’t know what or why he thinks like he does, why he does or doesn’t act. I don’t know whether he exists at all.

Putting rationale to matters of faith, I’ve learned, is a fool’s exercise. No one has answers, no one knows where this life is going.

Not really.

What I’m left with is the rubble, the aftermath.

It boils down to this:

Society and its’ bloated, bureaucratic and bumbling systems, its laws manipulated to bury truth instead of seek it, failed my friend, a person as honest, loving and moral as there is.

And, they failed the innocent boy who had just one thing going for him in life.



I’ve worked in journalism for 11 years.

I’ve spent countless hours in courthouses and courtrooms.

I’ve listened, maybe hundreds of times, to awful tales of awful men doing awful things. I’ve let these experiences shape my belief that humanity’s capacity for beauty is outweighed only by its infinite ability for ugliness.

I’ve heard of how men abused children, committed rape, dealt drugs, used drugs, stole, lied, orchestrated mayhem, shattered lives.

I’ve sat near a man who dismembered his wife.

I’ve locked eyes with a serial killer.

None of those clung to me like this.

The details won’t fade over time, will never be a distant day of a past long faded. The clarity of how I remember it now, like it happened at breakfast, will be how it lives on.

I’m angry for this, and it’s deep, embedded like a tick that needs surgery to remove.

That surgery is this column, for whatever it’s worth.

I hope it’s viewed first and foremost as a letter and outpouring of support for my friend.

Next, an attack on the system that allowed injustice to happen to her, an attack on our society’s failed systems in general, and lastly, maybe, just maybe, the bit of therapy needed to make sense of it.

I have doubts this will ever be, however.

Like my friend, I fear I’ll be stuck with the wreckage for a long time to come, my confusion and hurt not nearly as great as hers, but real all the same.

The events of that day, the sad attempts at proper resolution and justice, have consumed me lately.

They’ve pushed me to question what many others, people I understand now as much more intelligent than I, have for a while:

What good are society’s systems when they’re the metrics used to produce outcomes so blatantly wrong?

What good are laws that restrict truth?

What does it say about us when we allow ourselves to be governed this way, when we lack the wisdom or courage to change?

Today, I realize what happened to my friend didn’t create these thoughts. They’ve been brewing, but I’ve been too blind to recognize them.

No, the hearing and the people involved were merely catalysts. They held the brush that put the finishing touches on this cracked, warped picture.

I’m no revolutionary, no anarchist, but I no longer believe our systems — democracy, capitalism, religion, education, health care, law enforcement, the courts, any of them — are worth preservation, or deserve a chance at redemption.

They’re broken beyond repair, and the joke’s on us, because the game is rigged top to bottom, and we let it happen.

It took a court-sponsored theft of an orphan to see it, but see I can, my eyes open to a truth hidden the whole time in plain sight.


I’m proud beyond measure of my friend.

The government asked her to take in the unwanted boy. She did so much more than that.

He was sick. She made him well.

He was unloved. My friend gave him every ounce she had.

He didn’t have a name. She gave him one. It means appointed.

She gave him her time, money, life and the biggest gift of all, her heart.

If you know this woman, it makes sense, her actions, maternal nature, the sorrow and sadness over losing the boy.

She’s someone worth knowing, trusting and fighting for. That the court, attorneys, and their cherished system didn’t understand this is another example that justice is truly blind.

She and I spoke the other day.

She’s doing better.

Hard days followed the hearing, followed the day her boy was taken away. More will come.

As sure as her heart loves, it bleeds, too.

But she’s started to smile and laugh again, and it’s a welcome sight.

Her smile is wide and bright and smoothes the rough edges of anyone within its radius.

I’ve always said the trait I admire most about a person is his or her ability to raise up the people around them. My friend does this better than anyone.

When we talked, she said she dreams about the absent boy.

She dreams the judge made a different decision.

She dreams he’s still home, still with her.

She dreams someday circumstances will reunite them.

I wish I shared her hope.

Love, we agreed, is dangerous.

It doesn’t come or go easy. It makes you earn it, and as swiftly as it arrives, it’s gone just as fast.

The mystery of life, my friend says, is that it can all change in the blink of an eye. Those words are certainly more poetic than anything I’ve written today.

But that’s her, part of the glow surrounding her.

I had my own dream recently about the boy.

It was years later, as he was entering adulthood. He had indeed found his way back, but there was no happy reunion, no Hollywood ending.

He found my friend, the judge, the attorneys, me, all of us who built and relied upon systems with sand for foundation.

He wanted to understand, wanted to know who was accountable.

He said his life had been hard, that he had struggled in many ways.

He asked us why he was pushed to a crossroads so early in life. He asked why he was ordered one way when it should have been the other.

He asked why we did what we did when we should have known better.

No one could answer him.

We just sat there silently, looking at him, as unable to help then as that day at the courthouse, unable as the day he was born.

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love2teach 5 years, 3 months ago

Wow... I cannot even type the right words that I want to say, that would support or agree with the words you have written. Unfortunately, we live within a system that so often goes against those who believe so strongly that "the system" is there to protect them and that it will do what is right. I am sorry for your friend, and anyone else who "the system" has unjustly treated... the mother and the son, the present and the future. Thank you for writing an article that is so sensitive and raw. I only wish that the laws would see what the "right thing to do" actually is....


bam41770 5 years, 3 months ago

Your friend's husband is a good friend of mine as well. I was lucky to have held this baby. This has been a tragedy and a travesty of justice. My heart goes out to my friends. The saddest thing is this boy may never know that two loving people opened their hearts and home and gave everything they had to love this child and take care of him for the first months of his life. God Bless you, my friend.


Jon Pfeifer 5 years, 3 months ago

While this is a very articulate and passionate opinion piece, I have to say that I have no idea what the situation was, and the article doesn't explain it very well. I kept wondering as I read the article if there were grandparents or other family members of the deceased parents. If so, why would "your friend" be a better option for placing the child than his own family? The article almost comes from the position that this system is designed to benefit "your friend," when it was not. It was designed to help the child. You state without any support that the child was placed with a family "unworthy" to raise him. What makes that family unworthy? What makes any family "unworthy" to raise a child? I have no idea from this article. You haven't articulated a miscarriage of justice, you have only articulated a very emotional response to a process that you felt was unfair, but for all I know from reading your article worked out for the best of the child. You didn't even mention who the parties to the case were. For whatever reasons, social services felt like keeping the child with "your friend" was not the right decision and the judge agreed. Other than understanding that you feel really passionately that this was the wrong decision, I have no idea where the system failed because you left that out. As for your conclusion that none of our systems are worth preserving, what are the alternatives? You want to give up on democracy, then what should replace it? Capitalism has some real injustices, but what works better? As for placement of children, how should that be handled? The wrong thing happens in every human institution on occasion, but you can't simply tear everything down without an alternative... that is anarchy.


justafriendoftheboys 5 years, 3 months ago

You told her to speak the truth!! Wow, then why don't you do that Joshua. I am a dear friend of the foster mother where the baby went. Everyone should read Small Towns comment, because that is a person that really cares about the truth. This was NOT an orphaned baby, he has parents. He is a foster child. Your friend needs to remember that she is a foster parent, not an adoptive home until the rights of the parents are terminated. I truly understand how she must feel. My heart goes out to her, However, let me tell you the other side of the story. I to have held this baby in my arms. He was placed with my dear friend. She did not set out to steal this baby as Joshua wants you to believe. She adopted this baby's biological brother 2 years and 8 months ago. She has always stated that if the parents had another child that it was her wish to take that child as well so her son could have a real sibling to grow up with. Joshua states that she is unworthy to raise this child!! How would he know this?? He has never met her or her family. He has not seen the wonderful job she has done with her son (the baby's brother). Because I know first had that he was NOT in that court room, because I sat just down the hall from him. So, who are you Joshua to judge someone that you have NEVER met???
I think you should know this... my friend shed many tears when she decided to move forward to try and have the boys placed together... she prayed for many hours for the right thing to do. Her heart was torn because of your friend. She did not want to hurt your friend and most of all would NEVER want to hurt a child. If you want to point fingers like a child, then point them in the right direction. The baby was still in the hospital when she started her quest to get him. He had not been placed. That information was with held from your friend I am sure.
The biological family was in that court room as well as your friend. They stated to the judge that they wanted the baby placed with the same family that adopted the other child.
Joshua, you should be ashamed of your story in so many ways.... the dream you had... PLEASE spare us your drama act... let's go to the facts. see next comment ran out of room...


justafriendoftheboys 5 years, 3 months ago

This family the baby was placed with is a good Christian, loving family. This child will never want for anything... it will have a life that some of us only dream of. I have never met a more loving and kind mother in my life. This child is not only lucky that she fought to get the placement, but BLESSED beyond mere words can say.... His brother like him was drug addicted at birth.. my unworthy friend as you call her... did not care... this little angel is the smartest two year old I have ever seen. Knowing my dear friend, this baby will have the same chance at life... so, don't worry about your dream, it's nothing more then you trying to make a good read,...this child will never come to you or the other foster mother and complain. I am sure of that!! One thing you should know Joshua... my friend has stated to me that she was going to ask the GAL to talk with the foster mother to see if they could talk and if she could get their information, with pictures and so on,. so the baby could know who she was and how much they loved him. My friend is making a life book for her boys.. if she is lucky enough to adopt this boy as well... she wants them to know their story... well this morning I called her... through tears she told me of this article... then she said, because of this... I never want my boys to know about them.. if they think I am this bad and unworthy, I would not want them to contaminate my son's thoughts of me... SO JOSHUA, share that with your broken hearted friend....and then look in the mirror and thank yourself. The right thing was to move the child to live with his brother... and if God willing, they can grow up together. God did not place the child with your friend or take him away like you wrote... DHS did that.. and regardless of what you think, they did the right thing for the child. He can now grow up with his biological sibling.... Hope this put some light on the situation...,


KLR 5 years, 3 months ago

WOW!!! An unbelievable article.
How sad as I sat at the other end of the hallway with my friend, the other foster mom who you call unworthy. All she kept asking me was, am I doing the right thing.
This foster mom, my friend of 20 years is an amazing mom with a huge heart. Her now 2 year old son, the brother to the foster baby, had a very hard start in life and has now became a healthy, happy, extremely smart little boy with older brothers and sisters who worship the ground he walks on.
She knew that this would be in the best interest of the child, whom she has been trying to foster since he was 2 days old, to grow up with his biological brother.
So before you write a one sided article like this maybe get your facts straight. How sad there are people like you in the world that can hurt someone they have never met.


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