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: Making a Difference

Generally when people find out that I work in Foster Care I get one of two responses or a combination of the two:

  1. Oh my!  That must be really hard work!
  2. Oh my! That must be really rewarding work!

Truth be told, those who understand that foster care is both hard work and rewarding should receive a gold star.  Working in foster care is certainly hard work, but the rewards definitely outweigh the hardships.

Everyday that I am working I am making a positive difference in the lives of children.  Being a positive role in a child’s life is the highest and best achievement anyone can have.  My heart is at this very moment all aflutter with the knowledge that I (along with many, many others) are trying our best to ensure that the children under our care are – oh, my gosh.  To explain what we do in detail is difficult.  How about I describe my day?

I arrived to my office around 815am.  I went upstairs and had three emails waiting for me.  Two were unimportant and one was very important.  Because of the nature of foster care, I work with a huge team of people.  I work with lawyers, state workers, other foster care agencies, birth parents, foster parents, adoptive parents, siblings, doctors, teachers, therapists, CASA workers, and others.  The email of upmost importance in my inbox this morning was from an adoptive parent through a different agency.  I had to call their worker last night due to some unkind things said by these parents about a sibling of the children they recently adopted.  This adoptive mom had told his current foster parents how bad of a child he was and how he was the reason that he wasn’t with his siblings.  As soon as I found out, I called Harry (not his real name) to let him know so that he could run interference.  Harry immediately emailed the adoptive parents and simply said (paraphrased), “I understand how giving negative information regarding this child would be easy, however you need to keep your narrative regarding this child positive so that a family can love and cherish this child for who he is now and not for his history.”  The adoptive mom’s response was (paraphrased), “I will keep that in mind.  I just thought they should know what happened because they are so out of the loop.”  Anyway, I am thankful for Harry and his diplomacy in addressing this matter with his family.  I felt relieved that the family got the message and am hopeful they will not speak of their positive experiences with him and will perhaps try to avoid negative talk.

My next task was calling a state worker in a county that is 5 hours or so away.  This case needs transferred to the adoption unit and I have been given nearly no information about the case.  I certainly am out-of-the-loop with this case.  Being that these kids’ case originated so far from where they are placed, communication has been lacking.  So, I called the worker and she assured me that she would email or call me when the staffing meeting has been scheduled.  These kids have been in care since March (?).  They have had a hell of a life and I can’t wait for the adoption hearing!

Tomorrow I am teaching PRIDE (Parents’ Resource for Information, Development, and Education) which is designed to be a 9-week, 27-hour class.  I’m teaching the first four sessions TOMORROW!  I gathered the materials from the main office (2 hour drive from my office) yesterday.  Today I realized that whoever copied the book did so incorrectly and that I needed to recopy everything.  (Sidenote: I’m so thankful for my intern!)  I still have one more section to copy and hole punch and put in binders tomorrow morning.  This class is required for people to become foster/adoptive parents.  PRIDE is designed to give people an understanding of foster care and adoption and help them make an informed decision as to whether or not they should provide foster care, adoption, both, or neither.

We ran out of paper.  Wal-Mart run!  While I was picking up the PRIDE materials yesterday I asked about getting a bookshelf for the office.   That request was approved.  While at Wal-Mart my intern and I picked up a box of paper, a bookshelf, Great Value goldfish, Great Value cookies, coffee creamer, styrofoam cups, and 1″ binders.  We then high-tailed our happy selves back to the office to start copying.  My intern left at 2pm.  I needed to leave no later than 315pm.

While she was copying, I was writing progress notes for the kids I saw yesterday.  After that was completed, I took over the copying since my intern left.  At 325pm I asked another co-worker (not a foster care worker) to just put the papers that were still coming out of the machine on my desk and I’d handle them in the morning.

I jumped in an agency vehicle and rushed to a home visit.  My two kids in that home are doing wonderfully.  They have a very messed up history, but all things considered, they’re doing well.  The boy didn’t sleep last night.  He has major anxiety.  When I asked him why he didn’t sleep he said he needed to lock the front door.  I asked, “And that took all night long?”  He then added that he needed to clean up a mess the dog made.  I again asked, “And that took the rest of the night?”  “Yep,” he said.  God love him.  The little girl chattered on and on about Veggie Tales and bubbles and her cat costume.  🙂  My heart smiles when I think of these two precious children.

We have a meeting coming up.  I’m recommending that the birth parents’ improvement period be terminted because they are not complying with the terms of the plan.

On my way home I arranged a visit between a boy and a prospective adoptive home.  And I called a foster parent to let her know that she and her husband were approved to take the kids on a skiing trip.

I love my job (most days).  I have the opportunity to ensure that my kids are getting everything they need, when they need it.  I get to make children’s lives happy, safe, and healthy.  Nothing is greater than this.

Welcome to social work.