Ask the person who works with CPS

While I’m not a CPS case worker, I work very closely with them and in a directly related area. I am privy to all of the confidential backstories. Of course. I will not betray any specific confidential information or give any protected details or any identifying information.

But I find people have a lot of misconceptions about how and why children are removed from their families, how they can get them back, how foster care works, etc.

Ask away.

Something I’ve wondered for a while is, how bad does a child’s physical living space have to be for them to be removed? Especially if it isn’t “bad” but rather just small or cluttered.

Example: A friend of mine lives in a large (maybe 1800 or so square feet) double-wide mobile home. In that home lives my friend, her wife, their four children, and my friend’s mother. The home was originally 3 bedrooms but they added a fourth by dividing up one of the living rooms. So the elderly mother has her own room, my friend and her wife share a room with the baby, the next two oldest (4 and 5, I think) share a room, and the oldest kid (a teenager) has his own room. There’s still a big kitchen, two living rooms, two big bathrooms, a proper laundry room and storage room,and a usable dining room. It’s not a tiny house.

The house is old and suffers from mold around the windows and the back door. They keep it scrubbed but it tends to creep back in the winter. The problem, according to a handyman friend of theirs, is that the brick supports the house sits on have settled a bit over the years, causing the window frames to be out of true just enough to let water in. Same with the back door. To really fix it the house needs to be re-leveled and the windows & back door replaced.

Here’s the kicker: they refuse to do it not because of the cost or time involved but because they are absolutely terrified that if they call a proper contractor to come do the work (which would likely be needed, a handyman wouldn’t cut it), the contractor will call CPS and have the kids taken away for… reasons? I asked why she was afraid of CPS and she had a whole list of reasons: the house is filthy, the kids don’t have their own rooms, too many people living under one roof, a conservative town hates lesbian mothers… the list goes on. The house isn’t huge but it is adequate at least until the baby is big enough to need her own room. There are toys scattered about but not filth and dirt—the house is messy but not dirty. All the plumbing and electrical systems work, a good furnace keeps it warm in the winter, and the bathrooms are clean and usable… it’s a pretty normal home. As for the window issues, well that’s why the contractor would be there. Right now I think the leaks are more of an annoyance than a danger.

On the same spectrum but much worse is a sort of friend-of-a-friend. I heard from my friend that this person lives in a tiny (maybe 800sq ft) 2 bedroom home where there are also 7 people living… three adults (one of which is pregnant) and 4 children. The oldest adult has one bedroom, the other two adults (including the pregnant woman) sleep in cots in the corner of the dining room, two children share the second bedroom, the other two sleep on couches in the living room. Again, the house is safe and warm and clean, just way way too small for everyone who has to live there. Apparently she also lives in fear of CPS.

Anyway, I have no idea how realistic their fears are. So I guess my question is, when does living conditions cross the line into “take the kid out of here now”? This assumes no abuse or other signs of neglect. The kids are healthy and well-fed and go to school and come home to a warm home… it just happens to be just a small or cluttered house with not enough bedrooms to go around.

A friend of mine was a social worker who worked with CPS. She had a horrendous workload and burned out pretty badly from the stress. How’s the mental health in your office? They don’t get paid nearly enough for what they endure.

Again, I am not a case worker and I don’t make such decisions. However, every day I see cases in which the kids are removed, usually temporarily, from their homes. The first instance you told me about doesn’t seem like they have anything to fear from CPS. If anything, getting the mold problem taken care of will make the house safer and more appropriate, so they lessen the chances of any CPS involvement by taking care of it. If a case worker came out there are had concerns for some reason I can’t foresee, they may do an ‘in-home’ case in which the parents and kids stay in the home, but they are under CPS supervision for a while until a specific problem is taken care of. For example, if there were a case in a family with toddlers, the kids kept opening up the front door and wandering down a busy street, and the parents are good, but don’t know how to solve this problem. They might do an ‘in-home’ to make sure the parents put another lock on the door, or do something else to take care of the issue.

On the second one, again, I don’t think there would be an issue if the kids are clean, well cared for, not exposed to drugs, violence, or anything like that. A small safe doesn’t constitute a safely issue. This is just based on what I’ve seen in the hundreds of cases I’ve been part of. Again, I am not a case worker and I don’t make such decisions.

A few years ago there were multiple large scandals in my state regarding CPS. As a result, some issues that had existed for many years were finally paid attention to. More money was pried out of legislator’s hands, and since then more case workers were hired, case levels went down, and pay went up. There is still a big problem with turnover, it’s a very stressful job, but it’s not as bad as it was.

So, for which CPS do you work? The Crown Prosecution Service?

Has what you’ve seen and heard changed your opinions on parenting or family?

I’ve always been very much of a Free Range parent, and that hasn’t changed. The main thing that’s changed is I have no tolerance for parents calling each other neglectful parents about little stuff like if the child isn’t wearing a hat, the parents give a toddler potato chips, a child is unsupervised on a playground, or something like. That’s not what neglect looks like.

I’m curious: are you genuinely confused or are simply making the point that the OP used an acronym without defining it?

On the chance you are confused, and your efforts in Googling ‘CPS and family’ have been fruitless, it stands for Child Protective Services

This is very state-dependent and involves the age and gender of the children involved. My best friend growing up shared a bed with her sister in a small room until her sister left for college (friend was in high school). They had two brothers with a similar sleeping arrangement. They’d done this all their lives, and it was completely normal for them. If they’d tried something like that with the two older kids in one room and the two younger ones in the other (mixing the genders), it absolutely wouldn’t fly.

One of the criteria for foster parents is separate rooms for mixed-gender kids once they reach a certain age, so it’s not unprecedented.

Why wouldn’t I be confused? I’ve worked in local government and we had the Crown Prosecution Service and the County Psychological Service to name but two. Both dealt with children as and when required.

That’s why I asked- but there are some who like to take people to task for using acronyms without defining them. We’ve had entire heated threads derailed because of it.

Honestly, it was hard to tell based on the wording of your post (can’t read tone over the internet), but it came off suspect. But, recalling that you’re not from the US I gave you the benefit of the doubt.

It makes sense you’d have a broader perspective, for sure.

How frequently are ‘revenge’ reports made?

You bring back a horrible memory. We had a neighbor that called revenge reports on all of us with young kids. Each of us had CPS knocking on the door at some point. It was awful.

BAck when I was much younger and more naive I had a PT job. One of my co-workers also worked for CPS. Without mentioning names of course she told of a family of four kids, aged 6 to 13, who had been sold by their parents. I asked “Sold? you can’t sell kids.” And her reply was that it wasn’t permanent, they were sold by the hour, or half hour. The kids were taken from the parents, I wonder sometimes whatever happened to them.

It’s hard to say if a report is for revenge or for some other reason. There are reports made that are totally unfounded on investigation, but who is to say why the report was made? The child abuse hotline is anonymous.

There are some horror stories for sure. But by far the majority of cases don’t involve the parents actively trying to harm the children. The are usually parents who grew up in dysfunctional homes and don’t have any idea how to parent. They are very often on drugs, frequently unemployed, commonly mentally ill, not infrequently homeless. The children are put in horrible situations not because there parents want to, but because most of the parents don’t know how to function in society.

I have a friend who was a foster care caseworker in the mid 1990s; she left because she had a baby and the hours were not regular, nor were the hours worked by her then-husband. She did enjoy her job, BTW. One thing that sticks with me is that she could never get over how much these little kids almost always knew about sex toys, pornography, and drug paraphernalia. :eek: :frowning: :mad:

She also said that out of the clients who had to have children removed from their care, they were divided almost 50/50 between parents who had substance abuse issues, and parents whose primary reason for being unable to care for the children was mental disability, most often schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and/or mental retardation. In the former cases, the children were usually placed in the custody of strangers, and in the latter, most of the time they were placed with a relative who had often been trying to obtain custody since birth, or before, and wanted the biological parents to have generous visitation even if it had to be supervised.

Neither she nor anyone I’ve seen online who posted in a thread similar to this one said that they’d ever received a report, founded or not, for parents who legitimately disciplined their children. People I have known IRL who were afraid of enforcing rules because they feared CPS usually had other reasons that we all knew about but didn’t tell them, like having drug dealers living with them, that kind of thing. :smack:

Parents going through a messy divorce, or other relatives who are mad at somebody, don’t file reports as often as most people may think they do.

My friend told me about a man who was referred to them because he was caught stealing food, and the police recognized that he was not a criminal, but simply a man who had his back to the wall and didn’t know what else to do. His wife had left him and emptied all their bank accounts, and he had several very young children and found himself having to choose between buying food or paying for utilities. He didn’t know about energy assistance; he knew about food stamps but had no idea how to get them; he knew about child support but thought that was only for women; and several other things where they knew what he needed to do about it. That was one of her favorite stories.