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Child Protective Services: What I Learned as a Child Abuse Investigator

Updated on July 23, 2013

Would you ever consider being a foster parent?

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. A house can be so infested with roaches that the occupants would be inclined to vacuum the roaches out of the walls.
  3. 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.
  4. Children know what is really going on – more than parents realize.
  5. The majority of reported abuse cases are unfounded. Unfortunately, people report abuse on others as a form of harassment.
  6. If a parent being investigated says, “I’m telling you the truth – I have no reason to lie to you.” They were usually lying.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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).
  10. Foster parents are really angels in disguise.
  11. 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.


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      Angie galloway 3 years ago

      I worked as an investigator for nearly 8 years and I saw so many horrors inflicted on children..dead babies and when you see that day in and day out it changes you and people have no idea what it's like to deal with these families. Children need someone to be their HERO and thank god for the people who can do it. I'm medically Retired now and still have nightmares about that time of my life...Those people who trash CPS workers walk a mile in their shoes first.

    • profile image

      jaydust 3 years ago

      I can definitely relate. Did it for three years. I never had a problem placing a child in foster care because that only meant I was placing the child in a safe environment.

      Placing them with a family member was ideal but not when the family knew what was going on but never reported the abuse.

    • heartexpressions profile image

      heartexpressions 3 years ago

      Russinserra - Thanks for your comments. I completely understand what you are saying. I don't think we ever get over having to remove children from their homes, even though we know it is for their safety. This is one of the reasons that those working with the department of families and children are my heroes.

    • russinserra profile image

      Russ Inserra 3 years ago from Indianapolis, In

      I worked in Child and Adolescent Behavioural Health. I remember the first time one of my "kids"...clients had to be removed from the home. I held it together long enough to get to my bosses office, upon which I sat and cried.

      I know this was 2 years ago, but it sounds as if Breathe2's friend broke confidentiality laws.

    • profile image

      Casey 3 years ago

      I'm sorry Kathryn Hill, but your view on family is very outdated and is part of the problem. I worked for CPS as an ongoing case manager and people who have views like yours contribute to the overall problem. It sounds judgy. If you haven't experienced much, don't comment. 'Just get off drugs' is not very realistic, and believe it or not, high functioning 'married couples' also get CPS called sometimes.

    • Kathryn L Hill profile image

      Kathryn L Hill 5 years ago from LA

      No sex before marriage, I say!

      And, Women.... marry when you know you are ready for a family ( as in... ready on all levels, physically, psychologically and financially to have children.)

      And Please, Get Off Drugs First!

      And Men... marry when you are psychologically healthy enough to allow a wife to love your child more than you...and can love her all the more when she does.

      We need to be proactive so all these unhappy scenarios don't happen. It looks like there there are few case workers who can handle the job that incapable parents bequeath them.

    • heartexpressions profile image

      heartexpressions 5 years ago

      Thanks Christine. Blessings to you for being a foster parent. I believe foster parents are the unsung heroes of our day. It is not an easy task.

    • Christine Miranda profile image

      Christine Miranda 5 years ago from My office.

      Thank you for sharing your prospective. All we hear about on the news are the social workers who didn't do their jobs. It's interesting to read their point of view. I was a foster mother to a 5 year old boy. It was tough dealing with the issues of one child never mind many, many more. It is amazing you lasted 2 years. Voted up.

    • heartexpressions profile image

      heartexpressions 5 years ago

      Thanks for the kind comments Seeker7. My kudos to you on being a nurse; that too is a difficult job, with its own set of stress. Social services is a difficult profession, but it did lead me to adopt my amazing twins, and for that I am very grateful.

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Fascinating hub. I was previously a registered nurse and from time to time you would get kids into hospital - under suspicious circumstances - the stories broke my heart. I could never have done the work you do, it was bad enough having these cases only once in a while. Thankfully, most of the cases I did come across did end well for the children!

      Great hub + voted up!

    • heartexpressions profile image

      heartexpressions 5 years ago

      Yes, it's really sad. Thanks for the comments.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I give you credit for lasting 2 years Gloria. I don't think I could have lasted a week. I truly give CPS credit, they are heroes. My daughters who are elementary teachers tell me heartbreaking stories about their kids. To me heartbreaking is a kid who has the flu. See I told you I wouldn't last a week!:) well done hub!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I can relate to your story quite well. I am a former teacher and have seen these things from that end as well. This is an interesting and very well written Hub. Thanks!

    • heartexpressions profile image

      heartexpressions 5 years ago

      I cannot even imagine, breathe2travel, how gut wrenching it would be as a nurse dealing with the abuse cases. Thanks for your comments and your vote.

    • breathe2travel profile image

      breathe2travel 5 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA

      One of my friends works as a nurse practitioner for a medical clinic purposed for child abuse cases. Her stories are heartwrenching. Once, one of our mutual friends' kids were brought in. Our friend told me about it, because the abuse happened under the care of her ex-husband's wife. Of course, my friend had to hand the case to another practitioner bc of emotional conflicts. Yes, the positions surrounding child welfare are heart-wrenching, stressful, and underappreciated. And, the pressure put on the people making the calls of "abuse", "not abuse" and "possible abuse" - I cannot even imagine the burden. Thank you for sharing. Voted up.