You would never guess this about me, but I’ve got street cred. No, really I do. I earned while I was still living my past life. Past life? A long, long time ago I worked for the state as a Child Protective Services worker in the inner city of Detroit. How was it you ask? It was torture. Torment.
Some people hate me because they think they know what I went through. They don’t. Some people think they can relate to what I went through because they took a few social work classes in college. They can’t. Some want to know the details of the worst child abuse case I saw while there. Trust me, they can’t handle it. Unless you have walked in our shoes, you have absolutely no idea what it is like to live the life of a State Social Worker. While tons of people think they have an idea of what goes on behind the scenes, here is what is really happening whether you choose to believe it or not.
It is very difficult to terminate someone’s parental rights.
Now, there are certain allegations and circumstances when an automatic petition is filed to terminate parental rights, such as confirmed sexual abuse by a parent, or a death of a sibling which has again been confirmed to be caused by a parent. However, in cases when a petition is filed to terminate rights, family courts’ plan is almost ALWAYS reunification. CPS DOES NOT choose whether to terminate rights or reunify children with their parents. THIS IS UP TO THE PARENTS, and ULTIMATELY decided by the courts. Parents are given several chances to obtain custody of their children through services, parenting classes, housing inspections, etc.
Our very last wish is to break up someone’s family – Truly.
Almost everyone thinks that a workers’ first and only MO is removing children from their parents as soon as they receive those allegations. In all reality, that worker is doing everything they can to safely close that case as soon as possible to get it off their caseload. Period. Trust me when I say that that worker is probably arguing with their supervisor about even TAKING your case. Also, there is NO COMMISSION for the removal of children. We are not lying to take anyone’s children away. There is NO BENEFIT to us to do so. It breaks our hearts too to have to remove children from their parents, even in terrible situations.
The job is erosive to our daily and family life as well.
Workers are under excessive amounts of stress. Excessive. We are constantly concerned about the children and even the parents on our caseload. This takes away from our own families and sends our anxiety levels through the roof. I turned into a completely different person, constantly yelling at my husband and fighting with him over things he could not control. In the end, the job was not worth it. It took a huge toll on our marriage, and family life, which we were lucky to rebuild. However, for some, it is not always salvageable.
We doubt ourselves every day.
At the end of the day, this job is about the abuse of children. It is also about parents who have been accused of horrible things. No one likes to be blamed for something they did not do. We wonder if we made the right call constantly. Should we have removed that baby? Was that lady lying? What if he was telling the truth? Sure, everyone doubts themselves from time to time in their positions, however, in ours, the consequences of a wrong call can be unbearable.
It is frightening.
We are not allowed to carry protection in the field (i.e., people’s homes, driving in the neighborhoods). At all. Think about this for a minute. You are walking in the inner city, alone. You are about to talk with someone, who is alleged to have guns in their home, has an awful temper and supposedly beating their wife and/or children. Yet, you are NOT allowed to carry anything to protect yourself. They tell you it is because they do not want it to be used against you, or they tell you that you should be able to utilize your social work skills to get out of any situation. But what does that all mean if you are caught in the worst possible situation alone? What will they say about social work skills then? Will they just blame her social work skills when she’s dead? Will they actually blame them for their own death? They have before.
There are everlasting effects of the position.
Like I mentioned before, I turned into a completely different person. My anxiety BLEW UP. After I had my daughter, my postpartum anxiety was so terrible, even meds did not work for some time. Workers are constantly subjected to trauma and badgered to believe they should be fine with it. We would continually have training regarding secondary PTSD as we were subjected to others’ worst days daily. However, the big joke was that there was no support for this. The training was basically just telling you that you had this now, and would probably never be better. People signed up for therapy within weeks of starting this job. I knew of someone who actually had a stroke because his stress levels were so high. We develop a sick sense of humor to get around the heartbreak we struggle with daily. Unfortunately, I’m still desensitized to awful news due to the shock of trauma I faced during this time in my life.
The workers are not perpetrators.
It still stings to hear CPS workers and foster care workers should be held with the same responsibility as parents if they are already involved in the families’ lives, and something happens to the children. Really? How is that even a suggestion? WORKERS ARE NOT THE ONES COMMITTING THE ABUSE. Workers have SEVERAL cases they are working to close with government-mandated policies on a government-mandated timetable. They are required to speak with as many people as they can FACE to FACE. They must verify the well being of ALL children involved. These workers also have their OWN lives. It blows my mind that the blame is so easily shifted from those that are hurting to those that are trying to help.
In the end, I could not do it. The stress, anxiety, accusations, and conditions were not worth it. Do I wish I could take it back? I actually wouldn’t. While there have been some awful effects, I am grateful for the experience. I am more grateful for the bravery others’ have who are still doing this thankless job. I wish they received more respect and credit than they are given. They are truly rock stars.