Saturday, March 21, 2009

What do I do first?

So, you have an allegation of abuse or neglect. What do you do first? Do you keep it quiet and hope that it goes away? Do you open your doors invite the Child Protective Worker in and hope that they will see that there is nothing to worry about? Do you tell them to leave and come back with a subpoena?

There is no "absolute" right or wrong answer. Here are some self assessment questions to consider.

1. What is the allegation? It is much harder to substantiate or prove neglect or emotional abuse then physical or sexual abuse. Risk of harm can be reduced immediately by addressing the concern that is being brought to your attention. For example: a new friend may be substantiated as a sexual offender and you didn't know it. Acknowledging this new information and agreeing to not allow any contact will impact any decisions CPS makes.

In determining the action to be taken, CPS typically evaluates the allegation for severity, chronicity, long term, and short term impact. Whereas a finding - or even simply an allegation - of sexual abuse could result in immediate removal; not having appropriate clothing could result in an ongoing investigation, corrective action, and case closure.

You can find how your State defines abuse and neglect through the ChildWelfare.Gov website:

2. Is there any substance to the allegation? Are you being accused of beating your child and the "proof" is a birth mark on your child's back? One individual's three year old daughter, let herself out into the yard, while her mom was sleeping. If mom was drinking the night before and was hung over and slept in then there could be a totally different outcome then if mom was in the bathroom and she came out and realized she was gone and went searching for her within a few minutes.

3. Do you have a support system? Are there people around you, who can step in and help you with the children? Someone, who the department would see as safe and responsible, to take the children if CPS finds that there is an immediate risk of harm? Child Protective Service workers are less likely to step in for immediate removal if you have someone who can guarantee that your children will be safe and protected while they do their investigation. CPS can require removal if the risk of harm is immediate.

4. Do you have support services? Do you have medical providers, therapists, social service agency involvement who can vouch for your ability to keep your children safe? Can you make or have you made a safety plan with your support service providers?

5. Is this the first allegation? Repeated visits from CPS increases the probability that a case will be built that will substantiate abuse. Working a plan with a CPS worker and acknowledging any previous history or relapses and taking corrective action increases the chances of a positive outcome.

6. Are you ready to do whatever it takes to ensure your child's needs are met and that your child is safe? Sometimes, the abuser is a partner or family member. If that is the case, are you willing to make the report, get the protection order and do whatever it takes to ensure your child's safety?

There are no easy answers and no absolutes. The common goal of Child Protective Services and you, if you are like most parents and not the parent who has no regards for your child's safety, is that your child(ren) will be safe, loved and nurtured. Sometimes, life happens and things get in the way. You lose your job, helping someone else puts you in harms way, your child gets bruised. More often then not being honest, taking responsibility and doing everything in your power to keep your child safe will result in a positive outcome both with CPS and with your child's well being.

What do you do first? Make sure your child is safe - physically and emotionally. Make a safety plan with or without your CPS investigator.

Resources that might help:
1. An attorney
3. Your state website - Department of Health & Human Services - many states have handbooks for parents, the DHHS policies and links to resources such as the Ombudsman.

~ Deb

I welcome your comments, stories and feedback.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

~ So Many Stories - So Many Sides

There are so many sides and so many different experiences when it comes to Child Abuse and Neglect. As I'm putting my focus on helping the bio-families, I find that there are many broken hearts and affected people on all sides of the issue.

Just today, I spoke with a woman who is trying to adopt the brother of her adopted child. Her complaint is that the DHHS is putting barriers to allowing a child who's parental rights have already been terminated into an adoptive home. Later, I read a story about a pediatrician, who as mandated reported a child who had an unusual bruise and as a result his practice suffered and parents chose not to continue to see him. I ended my day with an IM conversation with my new blogger friend, Julie, who had an allegation and she mentioned though her child knows nothing of the details, her behavior makes it clear she knows something is amiss. There was a TV news story tell about a man and woman, in Indiana, who were abusing children between the ages of 2 month to 3 year olds, who had been left in their care.

All together the problems seem overwhelming and without answers. One at a time though a difference can be made. Tomorrow, I will send out an e-mail to the adoptive mother and I will continue to work on my book project. Tonight, I'll go to sleep with a deep sense of appreciation for what is good in this world!

~ Deb

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Where is the Help for Biological Parents?

~ About three years ago, I was laying in the tub enjoying a "nice hot bath" when thought appeared. "I have never seen a book for biological parents who have an allegation of abuse or CPS involvement." I could recall names and titles of books for foster parents, adoptive parents, social workers, CPS workers and not a single book title came to mind for biological parents. I immediately jumped from my once was relaxing bath, wrapped myself in a towel and went straight to the laptop. I googled, dogpiled and searched the bookstores for something that explained to parents what to do if CPS came knocking. Couldn't find any one resource that really explained the system and how to maneuver through it. I searched the Child Welfare League and couldn't find anything there either.

I truly felt I had inspired thought that night. I quickly made an outline of what a parent might need to know. Then I went to bed. I thought about it frequently for a month or so, even went so far as to get a book on how to write a book proposal. I even completed the steps of that book proposal until it came to writing the first chapter and then............

Now it's a few years later and I find myself thinking about this again and this time I feel ready to write, to follow through, to do SOMETHING to make a difference. When I did my search this time I found that there is more information, more people writing individually about their stories and this wonderous thing called Google Alerts that helps me find what people are saying about the topic.

It doesn't sound like much has changed in the last couple of years, people are still "fighting CPS", the system is still being reported as "broken" and there are still real stories of child abuse horror and real stories of "I can't get my kids back."

I know I don't have all the answers and I also know that I have a good idea of when and why it goes wrong for people when they are in the system and so here I am, writing my first blog and feeling the excitement of being inspired.

I welcome any questions, thoughts or comments....and invite you to learn and grow with me as we explore this topic.

Wishing you Peace,

~ Deb

I have Shalom over my life; nothing missing, nothing broken, no unfinished business!