Outrage and Response.

I know my blogs are far and few between on here.  Let’s face it – I’m a busy lady.  Today though, I need to let this out.  A coworker happened across an article that has us both fuming.  Not because of the initial story, but because of the stereotypical outlook on CPS (Child Protective Services) Workers, the misunderstandings of what social workers do, and the outrageous lies the author of the article spilled for the world to read.

The article gave “10 Things You Must Do if CPS Knocks At Your Door”.

  1. Take the accusation seriously.
  2. Ask what the charges are.
  3. Shut up.  Shut up now.
  4. Find an attorney who has experience fighting CPS.
  5. Be polite.
  6. Never let them in your home.
  7. Record everything.
  8. Have a doctor examine your child.
  9. Get family and friends involved in the fight.
  10. Never admit guilt.

I’m not even sure if I can address the author’s comments on these 10 things with class.  I’m not a CPS investigator, but I do work closely with them.  Here are my basic thoughts on these:

  1. Please, please do take the “accusation” seriously.  If CPS is showing up on your doorstep, this means that the report was “screened in” (the person taking reports gave said report to a Child Welfare Supervisor, who then reviewed the case and made a decision to have a CPS Worker begin an investigation).  This happens less often than one would think.  Many times we get petty reports (i.e. parents having custody disagreements and wants to make the other parent look bad by reporting abuse/neglect).  Sometimes we get superficial reports (i.e. healthy, responsible 15 year old being left alone at home for an hour).  My point is, if CPS shows up at your home, there is a damn good reason.
  2. By all means, ask what the “charges” are.  Really, at the initial stage of an investigation, we don’t “charge” anyone with anything.  CPS is investigating serious concerns regarding risk and safety.
  3. If you don’t talk to the CPS investigator you will be making his/her job very difficult.  CPS workers do not want to be involved with your family for any longer than they absolutely have to be.  Having a conversation does not mean that you will lose your children.  The goal of this whole process is to figure out how social services can help the family unit stay together, and if placing children in foster care/kinship care is necessary, then what can social services do to ensure the children are back home as soon as possible.  Social services does not want to rip families apart.  Really.  (I am saying “social services” because every state has their own version: Dept. of Health and Human Resources, Dept. of Social Services, Dept. of Child and Family Services, etc.)
  4. You should absolutely find an attorney.  Every parent is given the opportunity to have legal counsel.  You can either get a public defender (generally, certain public defenders work solely on CPS cases and are very experienced in this area) or hire a lawyer.  I don’t like how the author of this article says to find an attorney who “fights” CPS.  Social services isn’t about “fighting”.  Social services wants to find the family’s strengths and identify the needs so that those needs can be addressed (i.e. drug treatment, parenting classes, therapy, medication management, daily living skills, etc.).  So, I’d say find an attorney who can be honest with you about your case.
  5. Be polite.  Yep.  I know that being investigated is a terrible ordeal and can heart-wrenching and maddening.  Keeping your cool can help all parties move the investigation along so that everyone can get about their lives.  If you blow up, social services will understand.  If you become physically violent, that will be a problem.
  6. Well, if you don’t let social services in your home, the CPS Worker (I just spoke with my coworker — who is an investigator) will report a high risk of harm in the home.  Because an investigation cannot really be done, the CPS Worker will indicate abuse/neglect and then close the case.  If more reports continue to come in and you continue to refuse to work with social services, court action will be taken at which point a judge will do his/her thing (this could include criminal charges, a mandated investigation, etc.).  I’m not an expert on the constitution, so I’m not sure about the 4th Amendment.  But there’s a link to it.
  7. Record everything?  I mean, you can.  The CPS Worker will do his/her job the way they have to regardless of being recorded.  Social services has procedures for everything their workers do.  And I mean everything.  Social workers have multiple checklists for each case and many of those have to be done in a certain order.  So, record away.
  8. CPS will want you to have your child examined as well.  And the CPS Worker will not care to whom you take your child so long as you share the results with the worker.
  9. Social services really, really wants to identify as many strengths as possible.  If you have friends and family that wish to become involved, that is good!  Again, social services doesn’t want to “fight”.  Social services wants to figure out how to resolve any issues that may be identified as quickly as possible.  Social services wants to take a team perspective – everyone should be included in the decision-making: social worker, lawyers, parents, children (if they are capable of doing so), doctors, teachers, etc.
  10. Admitting guilt does not increase your chances of having your child removed or (if a child has been removed already) returned to the home.  Everyone does stupid shit.  Sometimes that stupid shit gets you into a lot of trouble.  Talking about mistakes made or continuous struggles helps the process move along swiftly.

I could keep going and going.  I may continue this later in a new post regarding the comments about the article (REALLY PEOPLE?!  CPS DOES NOT HAVE A “QUOTA” NOR DO CPS WORKERS GET COMMISSION!).  Until then, keep your heads on straight and have a conversation with someone who works in the field.

Welcome to social work (stigmas, stereotypes, and other things that mean ‘bias’).

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Joys of Foster Care: Camaraderie.

I woke up at 5:55am.  My alarm was set for 7am, however a coworker had text me asking, “are we still going to the meeting today?”  Said meeting was 2 hours from the office.  My response: “it’s not mandatory.  So, no.”  She said, “Yes it is.”  I rolled my eyes and let out a loud, “UGH!”  So, my boss, this coworker, and I met at the office at 7am (I pulled into the parking lot as my alarm went off).  I had informed my boss (who also didn’t realize the meeting was manadatory) that I did not think we needed to go to the meeting and that I was a bit cranky.  I kept saying, “the meeting that was canceled last week was mandatory.  The email for this meeting did *not* say ‘mandatory’.”  But I got in the car like a good social worker and headed out to the meeting.

Shortly after getting on the road we were chatting about the weather, kids, cases, parents, and other social worky things.  About 3/4 of the way to the meeting place, my coworker received a text, “Community based workers do not have to go to the meeting.”  I glared out the window and wanted to shout, “I TOLD YOU SO!”  But, I didn’t.  We decided to go about another 20 minutes past the meeting place to one of the main administraive offices.  My boss needed to sign paperwork and I felt like visiting with my fellow foster care workers.

While at the office I completed supervision with my immediate supervisor, gave advice to another worker about how to get the state to send her current license quicker, and got a referral for four children ages 1, 2, 4, and 4.  They’re all siblings (yes, 4 and 4).  So far I haven’t placed them.

On the way back to our office, my coworker, boss, and I talked about men and dating.  This is a fairly popular topic since my boss and I are both single.  We were all chatting away happily through our lunch stop at Chipotle.  That’s when I realized I am so glad we made the trip even though the trip wasn’t needed.  I really enjoy the company of my coworkers.

Later when we were back at our office I received a call from a dear friend and fellow foster care worker.  He works for a different nonprofit agency in the same city.  We were chatting about 2 girls that will (more than likely) be making a transition from their current foster home with my agency to an adoptive home with his agency.  Then we discussed another shared case.  And then I asked, “did you get a referral for four kids?”  Yes, he did.  We discussed our options and concluded that he would call the state worker back to inform her that his agency did not have a placement.  And then I would call and say that I have placement IF we can split the children into two homes.  The two foster families are good friends and the kids would see each other all the time.

See how that works?  Talking with fellow foster care/adoption workers makes the world go ’round.  Of course, I haven’t received a call back from the state worker regarding our plan for these kiddos.  But, the agencies in this community are working together to really try and provide the best services possible to our children and families.  I love that.

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P.S.  I’m really tired.  This blog could’ve been much better had I waited until tomorrow to tell the tale.