Child Protective Services: What I Learned as a Child Abuse Investigator
Would you ever consider being a foster parent?
I was 44 years old and working on my Master’s degree in counseling when I made the career change from accounting to social work, but I had no idea what I was getting into when I accepted a position as a child abuse investigator. Here are some things I learned:
- Methamphetamines can cause a mother to take her children out into the woods at night to search for boogers. Meth impacts children far more than the average person realizes. Meth accounts for about 40% of children who are removed from their home in reported child abuse cases.
- A house can be so infested with roaches that the occupants would be inclined to vacuum the roaches out of the walls.
- Children sometimes make up wild stories to try to get things they want. I once investigated a family of an elementary age child who lied about being tied to a chair with an extension cord. The child's parents wouldn't give in to a request for a TV in the child's bedroom, and the child was mad.
- Children know what is really going on – more than parents realize.
- The majority of reported abuse cases are unfounded. Unfortunately, people report abuse on others as a form of harassment.
- If a parent being investigated says, “I’m telling you the truth – I have no reason to lie to you.” They were usually lying.
- Parents who get their children back from foster care, are the ones who admit they have a problem and take advantage of the help offered to them. I remember one parent whose children were so mad at me for removing them from their home. Their parent said, “Don’t blame her it is my fault I screwed up, but I promise you I am going to do everything possible to make this right.” And indeed the parent did get her children back.
- A child abuse investigator does not want to put children in foster care. You have no idea how much paper work is involved, and how much time you have to spend in court (which then puts you behind on all of your other cases). When a child enters foster care it is because it was the only way to ensure the child’s safety.
- There are thousands of children in foster care who are available for adoption who want nothing more than to be a part of a family (there are approximately 104,000 children available for adoption).
- Foster parents are really angels in disguise.
- A child abuse investigator is probably one of the most difficult and under appreciated professions in our society: the workload is overwhelming, the paperwork is redundant and unending; the emotional toll is almost unbearable (most investigators end up on anti-depressants); and the stress level is through the roof.
Needless to say, I only lasted a little over 2 years as an investigator; this isn’t unusual as the turnover in this profession is unprecedented. However, there are those who, for the love of children, are able to continue on in this line of work. They are my heroes, and they have all my respect and admiration.