Last Edit (4): Time for bed, long day of answering questions! I never imagined it would get this amount of attention. I will continue to try and get to some tomorrow as well. I hope this helped shed light on CPS and what we try to do. I hope for the best for all of you, from the parents, to former kids in our system, to workers, and concerned citizens. Never stop working towards what you feel is right! Thanks!!

Edit 3: Thank you for all your questions and response. I'm overwhelmed by the stories, both good and bad, that people have to share. I will keep trying to answer as many questions as I can, and I apologize if I don't get to yours. Obviously there are a lot of feelings and stories around this topic, and I'm glad people had a place to share them.

EDIT2: I've been answering as many questions as I can these last four hours. I have to go for awhile, but will try to answer as many more as I can tonight! Thank you all for your passion, stories, and questions. I apologize for the negative experiences you may have had with CPS systems in your area, and applaud the good experiences. Both sides of the story are important, and should continue to be shared! Thanks!

Edit: I should also mention that I love my job, and couldn't imagine doing anything else!I feel that there are a lot of misconceptions about the work, and would LOVE to make this crazy (often confusing and not very transparent) system a little more understandable!

Original Post: Here is my [badge for proof!]I have been working in the field for about 2 years now. I will not answer questions that break confidentiality of my clients however, to protect their privacy. Thanks for understanding! Other than that, AMA!

Comments: 1585 • Responses: 106  • Date: 

tvs_jimmy_smits1158 karma

Ah...CPS, where your failure is public and your success is private.

hughesthewho685 karma

Pretty much :) That's ok though. We'll survive.

preludeoflight264 karma

I'm not sure how though! My girlfriend worked as a case manager (and eventually supervisor) for a DCF contractor. I have never met a more under thanked group of people than the men and women she worked with. All of them tirelessly looking out for the best interest of children, but even their good decisions seem to be frowned upon by the media half the time.

You all put up with way more stress than people in most jobs and I haven't ever met someone in that line of work that I felt was fairly compensated for what they do.

Thank you for doing what you do. The world can't have enough people like you in it.

hughesthewho196 karma

You just have to take a deep breath now and then, and do what you can every day. And go outside as much as possible.

And try not to be a dick. That helps too :)

Edit: appropriate use of grammar, sorry, I'm not proofreading these!

hughesthewho7 karma

Haha, very nice.

LudicrousGibs722 karma

I'm surprised that no one has asked any questions about the "dark side" of CPS.

For example, (true story), my ex (with whom I remain on good terms) went to CPS to report abuse of both herself and the children at the hands of her 2nd husband.

Not only did they not render assistance, she was investigated for fostering an abusive environment for "allowing a child to witness violence" because one of the kids was present when she got a beating.

They expected her to tell him to stop hitting her long enough to usher the kid out of the room and then...what, allow him to carry on? Really?

So all I ever hear about CPS are the horror stories (online, from firends, etc.), and one of them seems pretty reputable to me.

Do you ever face criticism or harassment on the basis of the evil-CPS-people stereotype? Have you seen such things unfold where you work?

hughesthewho717 karma

One of the reasons I wanted to do this AMA is for this very reason. The media, and public sometimes, is very critical of what we do. To the media: either we remove a child when we shouldn't have, or didn't do anything when we should have. You never hear the happy, or successful stories, on the news. Unfortunately, we tend to be a closed-mouth system, for fear of breaking confidentiality. I think that's a mistake. We can talk about what we do, without hurting our clients.

I am very sorry for your ex's experience with us. Like all professions, mistakes are made. One area I am championing my state's CPS system to improve, is how we work with Domestic Violence (DV) involved families, especially the women. This woman in your example was asking for help, and was punished for it. That's not acceptable, and not what all of us get into this work to do! It makes me upset, I can't imagine how it made her feel.

I have seen sitauations come to me (I'm in the latter half of the system, when investigations have already happened), that I don't necessarily agree with decisions that were made. In those case I work to right it as quickly as possible, and my supervisor will do the "agency work" to figure out why it happened in the first place.

thewalex140 karma

To tie on to this dark tangent, my father worked as a CPS Social Worker when I was in elementary school. He always had to be on call on Christmas and some of them he'd have to leave. Do you still have to be on call during many holidays?

Also, when I was a kid our family never went to the fair. Later my father told me admitted that he had to go pick up so many kids who'd been abandoned by their parents at the fair that it had spoiled the fun of it for him and that's why we'd avoided it? Has anything normally fun/interesting been soured by a CPS work experience?

hughesthewho164 karma

I've never done "Emergency Protective Services." People volunteer to do it because the pay is better. So I've never had to work on a holiday, although one time I brought a kid to see their mom on mother's day on the weekend. That was a special time though.

CPS makes me see safety issues everywhere. Please stop putting your kids on high, precarious places. It may be perfectly safe, but it gives me a heart attack everytime! :)

Raib31496 karma

I understand the stigma that CPS gets and it probably seems like the public is thankless(besides the children you actually help.), however the public scrutiny and the medias critical eye are very much needed. If I screw up at work, someone pays too much for an item, I get yelled at, fix it, and life goes on. If you screw up at work, there's a good chance you made a childs life immeasurably more painful or horrifying. I respect what you do and the people that do it. I'm sure it's thankless, you probably get paid pennies to confront crazy, drugged out, abusive, perverted parents. You have to deal with the scum of the earth and see things that probably turn your stomach. Doesn't matter. Try harder.

hughesthewho131 karma

I agree. I hold people's lives and well-being in my hands, and I never forget it. I will continue to try as hard as I possibly can. I knew what I was getting into, ad that it wouldn't be easy. I genuinely take your point very seriously.

Also, I agree that some scrutiny is important and necessary to keep us in check. You will see in some of my other comments, I echo this point. With authority, we should have checks and balances.

redEyeJedi619110 karma

Your last line gave me goosebumps, and invoked images of WW2 era fortitude and perseverance. I grew up in such a small, ignorant town that the general idea was to let me get beaten daily by my alcoholic mother, because "its better than letting cps break up the family" but on the bright side, i am unable to trust, especially women, and i have no idea how to move forward in life as a normal human. So i sold drugs, robbed, and stole. Lots of jailtime, too. All in all.... the after effects span my life, so PLEASE FUCKING CALL CPS if you think abuse is happening, you may keep some poor kid from going off the rails later in life

Boxofpaperclips64 karma

I'd like to apologize on behalf of the human race for the 2 freaks that responded by insulting you. Thank you for sharing & keep your chin up, sounds like you've been to hell & back.

hughesthewho32 karma

If a couple negative-nancies got me upset, I'd be in the wrong business :) Plus, many of them have legitimate concerns for which I'd like to respond, or at least apologize.

solaryn69 karma

My sister and I spent a year in foster care about 15 years ago. Our foster parents weren't ideal (although not terrible based on stories I've heard) but our interactions with DFCS (department of family and children services) were almost always very pleasant.

In fact we loved most of the DFCS personnel. (Although I'm not entirely sure if DFCS is the same thing as CPS)

hughesthewho46 karma

It's all the same for the most part, just different acronyms.

MartialWay64 karma

Like all professions, mistakes are made.

We all understand that mistakes are made. We mostly have an issue when these things are actual POLICY. In my state, it's virtually impossible for a victim to report abuse without having a complaint sustained against them (for allowing the child to witness abuse). This isn't a mistake, it's a purposeful policy of hitting people when they're down to maximize leverage by the agency.

hughesthewho28 karma

That sounds like a very unhelpful policy. That's not how it is in my state. Hopefully advocacy work can be done around that issue to change it in yours.

cassancellor43 karma

This is a wonderful response, so glad to know there are reasonable-minded people in the profession. Many people are quick to judge, or quick to walk away. I truly appreciate what you do. I have worked with adults and children with disabilities and have had to call CPS before. I have seen how hard all aspects of this job can be. You are appreciated 100%.

hughesthewho26 karma

Thank you!

KillAllLawyers18 karma

I am truly sorry that the good stories don't get the media grab that the bad ones do. It could be because the stories that do get out there are so heinous and involve our weakest and most sympathetic population. Also, general assumption, I believe, is that preventing the abuse is baseline (the job itself) and allowing it to happen is a major failure.

hughesthewho69 karma

We are often a reactive system as well. We cannot become involved with families by law, until the situation is pretty bad... which is also when it's most difficult to help! We rely on other systems (like communities, schools) to be the front line.

I Firmly believe it is everyone's responsibility to keep kids safe. I hope that communities can continue to watch out for their own families, and intervene in informal ways before situations become dire. I would love for communities to work me out of a job :)

Sekter89-3 karma

Like all professions, mistakes are made.

While I'm sure this is the case, to view it and word it that way I'm sure isn't reassuring for people having been in these particular situations or anyone looking for help.

hughesthewho11 karma

No, but it is honest. Which is better than pretending we are perfect.

effieokay6 karma

If a parent and their children live in an environment where the children see their parent being abused on a daily basis, sometimes for years, do you not think that is a form of child abuse?

Yes it sucks for the partner who is being abused and it is difficult for that person to leave, but when you have children, sorry, you have to make them the top priority.

hughesthewho42 karma

It is definitely not great for the well-being of that child. If any of you know a family like this, please reach out to that family (particularly the abused parent). It is extremely difficult and terrifying to leave an abusive relationship. Often batterers will make it clear WORSE things will happen to children if their partner tries to leave.

dominator721554 karma


hughesthewho456 karma

We do what we do for folks like you (Dr. Seuss Anyone??) Thanks for you comment and I hope your mom is doing better.

alex6678227 karma

At what point in your career did you find your confidentiality agreement most difficult? I work as a psychologist as I've seen my fair share of terrible instances of abuse, but if need be we often hand cases to your agency. Thanks for everything you do and the kids you protect!

hughesthewho386 karma

At one point I was working with a family where the father, who I didn't work with directly (another co-worker was teaming the case with me) worked at a nearby store. A personal friend of mine also worked at that store, and would talk about that co-worker and thinking he was cute. It was definitely difficult for me personally in those conversations to not reveal that I knew that person, and the intimate details of his life. Any time I see a client in the community, I will pretend to not know them, to spare them from having to explain WHY they know me. Sometimes clients don't care, and will say "Hi."

SmellBeforeRain203 karma


hughesthewho117 karma

Thank you so much! We try very hard to be helpful and not make things worse for families already struggling with a number of issues!

dave_MD195 karma

When I was on pediatric surgery I dealt with CPS quite a bit (unfortunately) and just wanted to say as a physician I admire your services greatly. No question, just thanks.

hughesthewho117 karma

Thank you! We really appreciate you as well!

BirdLawLawyerEsq183 karma

What's the most fucked up thing you've seen?

hughesthewho363 karma

There's a lot that comes to mind. Probably the physical abuse stuff. We take them to get examined, and one little boy (about a year and a half) had lacerations and bone-breaks in different stages of healing. He was just so little. Breaks your heart to think of the pain that kiddo knew to be daily reality. It's our job to work with those parents though, and work through what led them to that in the first place, and heal.

Also, anytime a kid has burns. Burns are the worst.

takeluckandcareforit168 karma


hughesthewho27 karma

In my agency, someone would have gone to talk to the girl first. I can't say why they did what they did, unfortunately. It is terribly sad what happened to the girl, after lots of evidence to show she was not safe in that home.

advicevice134 karma

How do you plan to deal with the burn-out factor?

hughesthewho265 karma

  • Good supervisor and supportive agency. I work where I work for a reason.

  • Leave work at work. People's lives never stop, which can be overwhelming, but you have to learn to put up boundaries... otherwise in a couple years you won't be there to help at all!

  • I absolutely love what I do.

  • Co-workers. We all develop a weird sense of humor. You have to laugh, even though we see the worst stuff every day.

  • I have amazing benefits and good pay. It's helpful. Makes you feel respected and appreciated.

  • Self care! Reading shitty books, laughing, friends, being outside as much as possible... etc!

smittenimp92108 karma

Thank you for protecting children everywhere! My question is : what was the hardest situation on you? Have you ever had parents that you felt bad fir taking away their kids? And have you ever had kids whom you felt bad for taking them away from their parents?

hughesthewho254 karma

It's always awful to take kids out of their homes. No matter what that parent has done, or what they have failed to do in some cases: kids still love their parents, and parents still love their kids.

The saddest is when the parent is developmentally delayed, and they didn't totally understand that they weren't taking care of their child, and that child is severally underdeveloped or hurt. It wasn't exactly that parent's fault, but we have to do something about it anyways. That's the worst.

smittenimp9273 karma

I'm sorry to hear that. Though, I'm sure the children appreciate what you have done for them in the long run.

hughesthewho165 karma

Absolutely, Even parents do! Can't tell you how many times I hear, "You know, _____, when I first met you, I hated you. But now looking back I can't imagine what would have happened if you hadn't shown up."

In the beginning there's lots of yelling though for sure.

Catnip_pizza52 karma

In a case where the parent or parents are developmentally delayed, is there any protocol on checking up on them after they have their child? Like does someone at the hospital acknowledge something may not be 100% and recommend them to get extra help, or does someone just step in when things get bad enough for someone to report it?

hughesthewho92 karma

Sometimes hospitals will call us to express that they (parents) may need some extra help. There are a lot of nurse-visiting programs that will send someone out once a week or more to help parents learn what their babies need.

BluCoyote9189 karma

Have you ever seen any sort of after school program make a positive difference in a troubled child's life?

hughesthewho141 karma

Absolutely. The YMCA especially does good work in our area. Schools are a HUGE support to our families (who tend to be low income) as they can be a wonderful place for children to go for free (child care is a huge need). We also have a program through a community center that teaches kids life skills and gets them employment. I've seen awesome results with that program.

BluCoyote9152 karma

Awesome. I work in an after school. A lot of the kids seem to like me but I always wondering if they'll even remember the people like us that come into their lives. Thank you for your service to today's youth. They need people like you more than ever.

hughesthewho67 karma

Often it's the daily people in kids lives that make the difference. A good teacher, a good mentor, can SERIOUSLY make all the difference. Please keep doing what you do!

Cfx9988 karma

What options does a family have if they have a mentally and physically disabled teenager with mental illnesses who is verbally and mentally abusive and is physically abusive when given the chance?

hughesthewho98 karma

We do have families who actually come to US, rather than us going to them. I worked with a family with a child similar to your description who asked for services, because they knew that we have access to things that could really help them.

It really depends on the state, and even county, you live in unfortunately. I work in a very liberal county that had more services than other counties.

The first step is to reach out. I would call your state's child abuse reporting hotline and ask how families can get connected with services that would help this kiddo stay in his home. In my county we have several programs that aim to help families stay together in their home safely, and often work with situations like this!

Best of luck to this family. Caring for these kids is the hardest job of all!

Howdysf83 karma

Tell us about your experience in which you had the best outcome to a potentially bad situation.

hughesthewho225 karma

Honestly, any case that ends well fits this description, as they always come to us under the most dire of circumstances. One that comes to mind is a family where both parents were heavy opiate users, and their kids had even seen a lot of drug houses and activities. In this case, the grandparents took placement of the children when the parents when to jail for a period of time (relative placements are ideal for the kids!) The parents really saw this as a wake-up call, and both worked extremely hard to turn their lives around. We're talking jail time, treatment, halfway houses, etc. They got back on their feet, and I was able to return the kids to their home. I put a lot of myself into that one, which can be risky personally, but last I heard they are still doing great and maintaining sobriety!

Quest2863 karma

WOW! That's great to hear! I recently (a week ago) finished my bachelor in social work and want to get into this kind of work! It seems very rewarding :)

hughesthewho59 karma

It is, if you make sure to take care of yourself and remember why you got into the work in the first place. Also, having a supportive agency/supervisor is a big help.

CPSquestion67 karma

I'm sure you've experienced some crazy situations, but here is one I have been trying to assist with for a a while. It is a long story, so I will keep it short and I am changing the names, in case anyone recognizes the story.

Mike (now 15 years old) broke his neck in a car accident (His dad was driving) nine years ago as a child. He died at the scene, but was revived during the life flight. While he was dead, he says he had an out of body experience and went to heaven and met Jesus. Jesus talked to him and shared some things, which He told him not to tell anyone other than those he trusted. Mike's injuries resulted in being a very high-level quadriplegic and he depends on a ventilator to breathe to this day.

After Mike recovered enough, he confided his out of body experience to his parents. Mike's dad went on to write a book about what happened the day of the accident and has made a lot of money from the book. Mike and his mom have been opposed to the book since the beginning, because they did not think it was something they should make money off of. Mike's dad travels around promoting the book and speaking at churches across the country.

Mike's mom is his sole care provider, which, as you can imagine, is a very demanding role. The father does not contribute to Mike's care at all. Being that his mom takes care of him, she has no source of income. Mike's dad has separate bank accounts so he controls the money and he gives her a small allowance to pick up groceries, but does not give her any other access to money.

Mike's dad is extremely controlling and narcissistic. He and his wife get in arguments a lot and he will discredit her in front of his friends so they will not believe what she says. Mike and his mom have tried speaking out against the book through social media (on the book's Facebook page and the books website in the comments section) on a couple occasions, but Mike's dad deleted their comments and banned them from posting on the pages.

On top of this, Mike has younger siblings, of which, the second oldest is the dad's "favorite." I will call this sibling Chris. Mike's parents have not slept in the same room for years, mostly because she needs to be in Mike's room in case he needs her in the middle of the night. Over the last few years, Mike's dad has been sleeping in the same bed as Chris and will often be up with him at all hours of the night. Mike's mom has even told me that she has gotten up in the middle of the night to let the dogs out, and she has seen her husband coming back inside with Chris after being out in his barn/office at 3 AM.

The mom has no proof of any abuse, but the red flags are very evident. She has called anonymously to family services, but she does not want to raise any alarm without proof, for fear of doing more damage to the family. Since she is the only care provider for Mike, she's not able to get up and go talk to a lawyer or professional about things, and she definitely does not want her husband finding out. She also does not want to take this to court right now because of her lack of evidence and for fear of it being dragged out over the course of a few years. Mike's dad feels completely justified and invincible about writing and promoting this book. His church backs him, because they do not know the truth. The dad is extremely verbally and mentally abusive, but knows not to hit her because she will call the police.

This was longer than I intended, but there are so many things to this story. Thanks for any suggestions you may have that I can relay to her.

hughesthewho11 karma

I would echo some suggestions here. Get her connected to a local Domestic Violence Crisis center. They are trained to help in situations like hers. I can understand her hesitation to make further reports, as it may be hard for her family to go through investigation, but if she's concerned Chris is being sexually abused... some investigation may be really important. Best of luck to her, I cannot imagine the hard choices she will have to make.

texaspufflin56 karma


hughesthewho86 karma

Prepare yourself to feel frustrated with us. There will definitely be things you feel we should intervene with, but can't. For that, I'm sorry.

These kids need enormous amounts of patience. Please go out of your way to give it to them. Their parents even more so. Teachers often make the biggest difference of all.

If you could make reports as soon after you hear disclosures from students, that would be really helpful. Waiting until the end of the day, or end of the school year, makes our job more difficult.

wastingtimesince200955 karma

How biased are you trained to be or have become against young parents and why? I had a child at 17 and it seems like I have been harassed my entire life for not having had an abortion. Kid falls down and gets a bruise, cps gets called on me. Kid draws a picture of a gun at school, cps gets called. Kid is 10 years old and locks himself out of the house without shoes while I'm napping, cps gets called. I'm about 30 now and everywhere I go if someone finds out I had a kid young I am immediately suspect for doing anything and everything wrong. My kids teachers don't take me seriously. Neighbors or my kid's friends parents watch me for mistakes. I have a college degree, I don't do drugs and I'm in charge of 200 people for my job, but fuck me for trying to be a parent. So are most young parents that bad or are they just easy to target?

hughesthewho15 karma

A lot of young parents just need some education. When we get calls from hospitals about young parents, we often just go to make sure they have support, and hook them up with a parent aid. I know a lot of very young moms who have it way more together than older ones. Being very young... It's a risk factor, but not a causal relationship linked with abuse.

superquickusername48 karma

I'm a teacher and I find myself exaggerating parts of my personality to get the best results from my students. Do you find yourself doing the same thing in your work? Do you have an attitude or persona that is your work "you"?

hughesthewho95 karma

Sometimes. You have to be as genuine as possible in this work, as people will call bullshit immediately. Any part of you that is fake, or anything you say that is disingenuous, will be called out. I think it's a good thing.

I guess my best answer to this question is that I pump up different parts of myself for different people: some people need a cheerleader, others need an enforcer, and others need a friend. I try to wear many different hats to match the many folks I see.

Hope that answers your question?

androidftw199442 karma

No offence but I think that the social workers in some cases cause more damage than good. Also they are very lax on the confidentiality side. They told me they would'nt tell my parents anything that I said and then they went off and told them everything while I was in school. Casued a shit load of trouble for a long time.

hughesthewho30 karma

I'm very sorry that this happened to you. I hope we can do better for kids today :( I know I'll keep your story in mind as I go forward.

Aruu41 karma

Firstly, you do some amazing work! You must have helped a lot of children and families over the years. Thank you.

Can I ask, what qualifications did you need to get into your line of work?

hughesthewho64 karma

I actually have my Master's in Social Work, and was specially trained for the field of CPS through a federal program (a program that aims to increase the retention of workers in this field) called Title IV-E.

In many states, CPS workers just need a bachelor's in SOMETHING, or even an associate's in human services with some experience.

If you can speak spanish, it's a MAJOR plus and I'm very jealous of you. It's a life goal of mine to become fluent!

farthestworld66 karma

Check out the language learning app Duo Lingo. It's free and amazing. Learning Spanish may be easier than you think.

hughesthewho27 karma

Thanks for the tip!

CatpissNeverclean40 karma

Do the children sometimes just lie? How do you find out if they lie or tell the truth? There are some good movies about this, I wonder how often it happens.

hughesthewho80 karma

Often kids understand the authority we have, and get nervous to the point of not lying. Parents will accuse their children of lying all the time, even when there is physical evidence to support a child's story. I would say it's pretty rare for a child to lie about these things, and often they have remarkable details to back their stories up.

Sometimes children lie. It's our job to figure out what's going on despite that. It's hard to do anything on a child's story alone anyways.

Aleriya54 karma


hughesthewho15 karma

It happens, but it's not common. They teach you how to protect yourself from accusations, and what to do when they arise.

twoisnotenough13 karma

My mom had a home daycare for 20 years. One day, cps showed up, saying a three year old in Mom's care had been beaten with a 1" belt, and the mother and daughter told them that my father had done it. They literally checked every belt in our home, and found none that were thinner than 1 1/2".

Guess who had a ton of 1" belts? The little girls step father.

My mother quit daycare shortly after. I mean, just imagine if they had actually found a 1" belt in our home.

hughesthewho11 karma

This sounds very scary, I'm glad they found the correct maltreater.

wetwater38 karma

Thanks for what you do. An acquaintance of mine was living in his car with his wife and infant, and pregnant with another, when it was realized they spent their days in the local Walmart and someone made the call. After CPS put the infant with a responsible relative, they worked to get them housing, prenatal care for the unborn child, and medical attention and food for the infant.

hughesthewho9 karma

This is the ideal situation. Poverty is easier to help with than other things, like addiction or violence.

hughesthewho7 karma

I should say, ideal in that we are able to help easily. Not ideal for that family obviously.

Toolosba37 karma

I was personally involved in a social services case back when i was about 7 years old im 1 month shy from turning 22. Is there anyway i can search for my case and see the details? I had a lady come to my school first to ask me questions and then she visited the house where i was a victim of physical, verbal and mental abuse. It would mean a lot to me if i can remember some things that have happened to me.

hughesthewho12 karma

The state at that point (almost 15 years ago) was probably starting to take electronic records I would guess. Try calling your local human services agency to find out, they may refer you to a state reporting system. I hope you find the answers you are looking for.

Mattjew2434 karma

Hi. I have a question.

I was adopted at birth and my mom had this story of a CPA person coming over. Apparently she made several visits. During one visit, when she walked towards my room, our German Shepherd named Sadie growled and was protecting my room.

The CPA lady thought it was great that the dog was protecting me, and that was the last visit.

Is it entirely up to the CPA person to decide what is and isn't ok? What if that CPA agent had connotative ideas about guard dogs and deemed my home unsafe?

hughesthewho38 karma

We often have to consult with our supervisor. Additionally, all our decisions will be presented in court. If a judge, lawyers, and sometimes jury, don't agree with us, whatever decision that was made will be reversed or not allowed to happen.

PandaPoot28 karma

My family was victimized by poor CPS judgement when a live in nurse made a false claim that my mother was beating myself and my special needs brother. We were both removed from her care because CPS (against physician information) decided my brother's medical issues were caused by my mother somehow injecting pneumonia bacteria into his lungs (sound farfetched?) . The one doctor backing up their claims sexuality abused me in her office... Which she denied and no one believed. Eventually we were returned to my mother's care (where we both flourished) and the previous case judge and social workers were forced to apologize for the trouble they caused my family. What happens to the social workers in these instances where they literally destroy a family instead of helping them?

And what happens when a false claim is made?

hughesthewho11 karma

It can be very, very difficult to know what to believe when you are investigating. However, in order for their to be a removal, there generally needs to be a good amount of evidence to back it up. This sounds like a 100% complete breakdown in the system, and I'm so sorry you had to endure that.

As it is in my agency, false claims are either screened out at the time the report is given (if it is that obvious), or when they are investigated, the family is left alone when it becomes apparent there is no real concern. We also report to the court, that often calls our judgements out if they are flawed.

standaafghan27 karma

About how often to you get a complaint that is a total fabrication? Can you immediately dismiss the case, or do you have to investigate it completely? Is making a false report to the CPS a crime that can be prosecuted, or is there a basic protection for people so they aren't afraid to call on suspicion?

hughesthewho20 karma

We get fabrications, or "I saw her say no to her kid loudly." (complaints that are like... c'mon. Everyone does that) fairly often. I don't know the exact number because my job isn't to take the reports. We just screen those out, it can be pretty obvious when it's just vindictive, the reporter tends to be extremely passionate but have very few details.

HanmenKyoushi27 karma

I just wanted to thank you for seeming to actually care about the children. I was taken away twice and put in two different abusive homes, and my case worker didn't believe me (or didn't care). I know there are good people in the field, but it's hard to see that without having a face, or in this case a "voice", behind it.

Not knowing why you're put through those things is really hard as a kid, and even now I have trouble not thinking the entire system is a sham. I'm glad you're doing this AMA.

hughesthewho43 karma

Thank you, and I'm so sorry you experience what you did. I will keep your story in mind in my own future, thank you. I promise there are good, committed, people in the field.

Have you ever thought about doing trainings for CPS workers? Perspectives from folks like you make us better.

TheChad0825 karma

Why do so many people that have dealt with you guys, even as the children, have a huge and strong dislike for the CPS?

If you are doing what is in the child/family's best interests, shouldn't they agree with much of what you do?

I personally haven't had dealings with CPS, but I know people who have (or at least the Canadian equivalent).

How much work is put into your cases before you decide to remove children? A lot of the public opinion is that CPS is often far to hasty to remove children, or give them to the mother, rather than properly analyze the situation.

hughesthewho45 karma

First, I think people with good or great experiences are less likely to speak loudly about it. I guess my personal thoughts on this is that families work with us when they are in the worst of situations. CPS is often looked to by other systems to solve the most unsolvable problems, like poverty and violence. Basically, things have not been going well if we're showing up at your door. No one wants to be told they're doing something wrong, with something as intimate as parenting, when you may feel you're doing the best with a difficult situation.

I also think there are some not-so-great workers out there that are too confrontational, and rely on the law and authority, rather than social work skills, to engage people.

Up until the last 10 years or so, there have also been major flaws in CPS policy that are being worked on, even now.

Lastly, while I don't have the investigation job where you remove children, I can tell you they are told to do so as a last resort. I know these answers aren't very complete, I hope you can find the similar questions on here and my answers to those!

browneyedgrowl24 karma

Have you read Rowling's book The Casual Vacancy? What's your opinion/reaction to the situation in that story?

hughesthewho13 karma

I've never read it, but I have a lengthy reading list. I will add it to my list!

docious23 karma

What does one have to do in order to be eligible for foster parenting? Is it a very difficult process?

hughesthewho59 karma

Every state has different standards. In mine, you have to do a short 6-hour training online, and speak with a foster parenting licensing worker who will ask you a million invasive questions and look at your house. That takes a couple months usually. They will make sure you have the right number of bedrooms, smoke alarms, etc. They will also do finger printing and background checks. After you get licensed you have to do 10 hours of training a year. It's important to stay abreast of the most innovative ways of helping these kids for sure.

My number one tip: If you're in it just to adopt a child (which is still great!!), I would re-think it. Adoption is so incredibly noble and amazing, however in the foster care system we really need foster parents who will work with families and make life-long connections with the whole family, not sabotage our efforts to get kids home safe!

Foster care workers would kill me for saying that perhaps, but there are ways to just get involved with adoption with out getting involved with our process.

Craftywitchy19 karma

Do social services agencies require that a foster child have their own room? I live in a two bedroom apartment with my husband and two young children and would like to foster infants. My own children slept in a crib in my room when the were small and that is what I would plan to do for fostered infants. Would CPS tell me to take a hike?

hughesthewho21 karma

Every state and county has different rules on this. I would check with your local agency.

chunkyrice1315 karma

I'm sorry to hear you say that. You don't think it's possible for people to foster kids with the hope that it might lead to adoption eventually with the right child, but won't necessarily? What would be the ideal mentality or goals for foster parents? They can't be that thick on the ground, can they?

I'm invested in this question because someone close to me was adopted from the foster care system in what seems to be as ideal and amicable a manner as possible, with his birth mother eventually agreeing that his adoptive parents could offer him a more stable home then she could. Everyone is still in contact, I can't imagine a better outcome. His adoptive parents fostered children for years, eventually adopting twice (out of probably 30 kids that were placed with them, some briefly). Is that an uncommon story?

hughesthewho24 karma

I have mixed feelings on this. Foster parents, like us, must live a double life in some ways. We work very hard for kids to come home to their parents, but also have to have a back up plan. The ideal foster parent is open to adoption, but helpful and hopeful for safe reunifiation. I'm not saying this is an easy mentality AT ALL (we're asking you to love this child as your own, but be ready to give him back when his parents are ready).

Often, it's the best outcome. It has to be plan B however, and I've worked with some foster parents sabotage plan A, so that plan B is more likely to happen.

suddenlysomnolent23 karma

My kid was burned on her leg by a firecracker that someone's delinquent kid was setting off in a restricted area on the 4th of July. I rushed her to the hospital and I was reported because the burns looked like cigarette burns. I had CPS crammed up my ass after that. They eventually said they closed the case and finally left me alone. It was an awful couple of months.

Yet my aunt's kids were constantly riddled with lice and lived in a house with a dirt floor and couldn't get food stamps because my aunt had been caught selling them for cigarettes and alcohol. Every time CPS was sent to her house, she'd just take the kids and stay with relatives for a while. They'd give up looking for her until the next time someone reported her for neglect. The kids rarely went to school and she didn't make them go.

My questions are thus: Could I have just told the social worker that was harassing me to fuck off? What would have happened if I just ignored the scheduled visits? Was my aunt just lucky all those times? What would have happened to her if she was ever actually caught?

I don't mean to sound bitter. But when I was treated like a piece of shit over an honest accident and my aunt let her kids walk around with their teeth rotting out of their head, one has to wonder what is wrong with the system?

hughesthewho15 karma

I can see why you would be bitter. Anyone who went through that would feel that way. Neglect can sometimes be more difficult to "substantiate" (our word for "prove")... but that's the only reason I can think of that your aunt was not bothered as much as you. Because your child had a mark, however accidental, there may have been more aggressive follow up.

I'm not sure what would have happened in your area if you would have refused to talk to them. Investigators usually find ways to find out what's going on, it's often better to just answer their questions. They just want to make sure your kid isn't being burned or hurt on purpose.

But your situation sounds super frustrating, for that I'm really sorry.

anonhcn16 karma

How would you suggest dealing with those who use the cps system as a vehicle for harassment. I am not in your country (Canadian) and the situation is resolved now but I good friend of mine who has a physical disability had a number of visits that were absolutely horrific for her due to a nasty neighbour. She was a single mom and lower income I feel that because she fit the demographic of people they normally deal with she got more attention than someone in a different situation would. I understand that they were doing their job. I remember going over with my wife and spending the day cleaning her apartment spotless because the person she was dealing with didn't like her housekeeping. Her house was far from filthy. She had recently had back surgery. So yeah I didn't see the "good work" you speak of. It was disrespectful, frightening and made her feel like a failure at a time where she was very vulnerable. It was a good six months of her living every day in fear for no reason. Why aren't the source of complaints recorded and taken into account? My wife and I became a lot more involved after that and things have calmed down. I will never forgive the harm that was done and I don't believe it was all for the best. The requests made were petty and I believe that after interviews were conducted and it was concluded that the children were fine that should have been the end of it. How is using cps as a tool of harassment dealt with. Why isn't there more sensitivity. How do you feel about having more oversight given the power you have? Much like the police I would never engage your kind without a lawyer. I would not engage these services even if we needed help because I don't believe it would be given. People's prejudices racial, economic or otherwise get blown out of proportion when they are asked to sit in judgement over others the fact that they are overworked an not paid well doesn't help. end rant tl;dr I hold a very dim view of what you do. I believe there should be ways people who are vulnerable economically to protect themselves from having to go through an investigation if it isn't warranted.

hughesthewho25 karma

I would speak to the workers supervisor, and if you still do not get anywhere, go higher. They are workers paid for by your tax dollars, and you deserve the best they can give.

Phifedogg14 karma


hughesthewho30 karma

No, but many people can figure it out. The reporter is supposed to remain anonymous.

PenguinOD12 karma

So, someone I know has nephews, both had their teeth rotting, and they were taken to a cheap dentist to stop them crying, and the dentist pulled out half the kids' teeth. And they've not been getting medical checkups, because the wife loves clothes and her husband really wanted a Harley.Their dog was taken by the grandmother because it was starving and kept in a cage all the time. I've been trying to convince my friend to go to social services, and that they would not name their source. Am I right in thinking this needs to be reported?

Edit: I found the parents names in a really old email! I'm calling today

green_glitter_queen7 karma

So, someone took the dog, but didn't think the kids were important enough to do anything about? That's disgusting.

hughesthewho15 karma

Tidbit, abuse against animals was illegal in the united states before abuse against children was. They were seen as property, like women.

hughesthewho5 karma

I would report this. Sounds like definite neglect, and those kids need some help. The reporter can choose to be anonymous.

Reddit_dailly11 karma

Regarding families you have had a role in removing the children from abusive environments.

Have any parents come back to try and hurt you in any way?

hughesthewho43 karma

One time a man came to our office and threatened to come back with "guns and shit and hellfire." The county posted a police officer out front for awhile, and gave us a locked entry system.

I was at a training once that was conducted by a police officer who had worked as such for over 20 years. He said that he felt social workers were much safer in the field than his officers (even though we go into rough neighborhoods, into people's homes, into their lives CONSTANTLY). He said that "social workers have a knack for talking their way out of bad situations." I also feel we have a much less confrontational role, as compared to officers, which helps us stay safe.

Every supervisor will tell you, if it doesn't feel right, leave.

Reddit_dailly7 karma

I can only imagine the environment that you must walk into sometimes. In regards of who would be safer cop or SW I would agree only because over the years police have lost the trust of their local community.(Not all but some, especially amongst lower income neighborhoods) Im sure Social workers approach a dangerous household completely different than a cop does (more respect and delicacy) so that is probably a huge factor.

regardless, thank you for answering. You are doing an incredibly emotionally difficult career. I must commend you on that. Many people don't have the courage to face the social problems that you do. Thank you and good luck!

hughesthewho10 karma

Thank you and same to you!

EpidemiCookie11 karma

Did you have any cases where you just couldnt do anything about ? If yes,I would like to hear the stiry :)

hughesthewho44 karma

Sometimes heroin/narcotic cases feel that way. I see moms and dads struggle with all sorts of drug addictions, but heroin always feels the most... helpless? Not hopeless, but very, very difficult.

Sometimes you just know when you remove a child, they won't be coming back. Often that happens with "apathetic parents." I had a dad that was kind of taking care of his three year old little girl, but mostly out of obligation than love. When she was removed he didn't really care. I felt helpless then, because nothing I could do or say would ever make this guy want to step up like she needed him to. She went to a foster home that adopted her, and sends him cards every so often, with no reply. She is happy and safe, and barely remembers that time in her life :)

Justagreewithme9 karma

Is verbal abuse considered abuse? My neighbors CONSTANTLY berates her child. All I here all day is "what are you, stupid?!" "You fucking idiot!" "Shut the fuck up I'll beat your ass!" Every single day. However, I have never seen her hit the child so I don't know, but it can't be good...

hughesthewho8 karma

That would be emotional abuse. Hard to do much with sometimes on our end, but not impossible. I would make a report, it's possible others have witnessed the same thing and another report would make a difference. Sounds like this family needs some support and help.

MusicToDriveby9 karma

Why is CPS and its various forms in each state so grossly incompetent and ineffective? I remember being 12 and after a large domestic violence case the division of youth and family services sent a deaf woman to hear my story and my autistic brothers story. Pro tip : Autistic children are pretty hard sometimes to repeat things. Not to mention the failure over the years for then to note and do something about the abuse.

I consider my case to be fairly easy on the scale of child abuse, but what about the worse cases? I feel as though CPS / DYFS are staffed with workers who don't care, can't do their jobs well, and are very biased sexually in who they feel should be taking care of children. I still cannot believe they wanted to keep me in my abusive household instead of my father's.

hughesthewho12 karma

I am very sorry to hear about your story, and the obvious failure of our system, a system that I do believe in. All I can tell you is that I personally care very much, do my best to be unbiased in decision making, and think I do my job pretty well.

I will say that we get better and better. Looking back on the last several decades in CPS, I cannot believe what some of the polices were and who ever thought they were a good idea. I can't change how CPS used to operate, but I can work on making it better for families today. This doesn't help you and your story obviously, but I hope it gives you a small piece of hope that there is at least one CPS worker who has heard your story, and will keep it in mind as she goes forward.

Lastly, raising children safely should be EVERYONE'S responsibility. We should be the last resort. I hope that everyone reading this today takes it upon themselves to look out for the families who may need some extra help. I would really actually love it if we could work me out of a job!

anomolee4 karma

I am currently going to school in Canada to become a social worker, so your iama has been very interesting to me! Thank you for taking the time to do this. My question is: many people have told me that becoming a SW is a bad idea. The pay is bad and it is an exhausting lifestyle. How do you find balance, and keep your personal life separate from your work life? Personally I feel that I will become extremelyinvested in each individual case, and am a little concerned about it taking a toll on my emotional well-being. Is this ever a problem for you?

hughesthewho10 karma

You do get invested. But it doesn't mean it has to drain you. All you can do is your best each day, and let your families know that. I always tell me people, "I care about you, and your family. We will not always agree, but I will always try to explain where I'm coming from honestly. I will always try to get back to you as quickly as I can, and as helpfully as I can." People are pretty understanding of that. You just have to be upfront and honest.

Don't check your email from home. Ever. That will save you, I promise :)

I definitely think you should consider being a social worker. Beyond CPS, there are SO MANY things you can do with a social work degree. I get very competitive pay and AMAZING benefits, but I also work for a very liberal county.

CalamariKungFu3 karma

How does one become a CPS "agent"? Having seen my best friend going through beatings, bruises, and being physically and emotionally broken this has been something I've always wanted to be. Its like being an everyday hero, and I hope you realize you do more good and don't really get credit for what you do. A huge misconception I always hear about CPS is they come tear kids out of their parents arms on christmas morning, never the good you do. I think I am rambling now but I just wanted to say thank you for all you do :)

hughesthewho5 karma

Thanks! I did have my B.A. in child psychology and B.S. youth development studies (which is like social justice with youth lens). I also got my MSW, and was specially trained for the field. That being said, you could be a CPS worker in most states with just a bachelors. I would watch one off these videos to see if it's something you would like to do!

l_o_l_a_LOLA3 karma

Long story short my mother is currently trying to get custody of her sister's four daughters. I posted the story here but more stuff has happened since then. . . I just wanted to ask you what is the best way someone can go about getting the children away from the parent in order to keep them safe? I hear that taking the child away from the parents is the last thing that CPS wants to do and my aunt and her husband are doing their best to hide what's going on.

hughesthewho2 karma

I read the TL;DR portion, as there's a bunch of unanswered questions on here still. I would call CPS, they have an obligation to look at family first when looking to place children. Let CPS know that you feel the parents are hiding this well, and you are very concerned. Being a drug dealer alone won't be enough, are there any observable issues you can see? Be calm and even when you report. You don't want your legitimate concerns to be chalked up to family drama (which we have all the time).

Is there a biological father involved? I would also contact family court and see if you can take them to family court over the concerns. The grandparents may have some rights in all this.

l_o_l_a_LOLA1 karma

Well when my cousin was over yesterday she was telling us how while my aunt is at work he will take out all of the children to meet people to sell them drugs and how he hits them and yells at them when she isn't around but acts like father of the year when she is. The eldest girl's father died from an OD and the other girls' father is just as bad as the aunt and her husband. He wouldn't be any help considering his mother was the one selling pills to my aunt in the first place. There isn't anything we can see as we're not allowed near the house but we just want them out of there before anything bad happens to them.

Thank you for answering by the way, I know you have a lot of questions on here.

hughesthewho1 karma

Doing my best to answer them all.

Honestly, the only thing I can think of is to just call and report this conversation you had with your cousin to the report line. These would all be disclosures that we would investigate.

Something investigations do happen, but for privacy reasons we cannot tell the reports any details.

Proportional_Switch3 karma

My mother has done this job for her entire life, it takes HUGE balls (or ovaries) to work in the field for CPS. Keep up the good work, if you help one kid/family out of a shitty situation youre already awesome in my book.

EDIT: spelling

hughesthewho4 karma

Betty white on Balls v. Vaginas (as it relates to your balls/overies comment):


beebzzbzz2 karma

I am seeing a lot of people telling their horror stories and how they have been done wrong. I think it's important to point out that CPS cannot make their own rules/laws. CPS must follow the family code/ laws in that particular state. Also, often times caseworkers are at the bottom of the totem pole. They have to do whatever their supervisor, attorney, judge tells them to do even if they do not agree with it. It IS a lot of red tape and often times not as black and white as it looks. That's why making 35,000 a year is not enough :)

hughesthewho4 karma

It can be tricky to navigate it all. We are bound by law and statutes, that is definitely true. Many people feel we can go in willy-nilly and do what we want. That is incorrect, and I'm glad it is!

twinsocks2 karma

I lecture as part of the training for people in your job, and I want to emphasise that most workers are like you, keen, caring, and genuinely interested in helping children lead safe and happy lives. The media latches on to the one bad egg, or the one who slipped through the cracks, and it drives me crazy because it just demonises the workers who are SO good for SO little pay (where I live).

hughesthewho0 karma

Thank you very much for your comment. Most professions that have authority are like this to some degree, we only hear about the stories that are interesting... either the hero or the demon/incompetent.

Sometimes I think it's actually important to be put on our toes, because of that authority we have, it keeps folks in check. Sometimes it's just really disheartening.

Al I can do personally is to keep doing what I do :)

mcfattykins2 karma

Are you responsible for taking the children from the people? Or do you work with them, what's your specific job?

hughesthewho14 karma

I work with families after that has happened, to try and get kids home safely. Sometimes I get "In-Home" cases, where the family just needs some support. Sometimes I do have to remove kids later, because things have spiraled down-hill.

mcfattykins2 karma

What kind of holes do the parents to jump through to get their kids back generally

hughesthewho10 karma

If by holes, you mean hoops, I would say they often have to do treatment, therapy, or parenting classes. They sometimes have to have alcohol and drug assessments done. Sometimes the criminal justice system is involved, and they have to do things through them for unrelated charges (unrelated to their children). Housing and other basic needs are often hoops, but we try to help as best we can with those things.

username_000012 karma

My mom volunteers for CPS (retired attorney) and I've heard some insane stories and how incredibly stressful and emotionally difficult the job can be. So first, I want to say you're doing God's work. Second, how much interaction do you have with the kids? Do you mostly use paperwork and psychologists studies, or do you get most information for determinations from one on one interviews with parents and children?

hughesthewho3 karma

I don't know about God's work, but it's definitely work I feel is important. Thank you. I see the kids at least once a month, often much more. I work with the parents even more, and of course document it all :)

Ker_Splish2 karma

Do you often find that your agency is used as "retaliation" by angry or frustrated relatives?

hughesthewho1 karma

They sometimes call. It's usually pretty clear, as they have passionate, but very vague allegations. Those generally get screened out at report, and aren't even investigated.

effieokay1 karma

What does your workload look like? That seems to be the most common complaint with CPS workers I deal with. Some have been in trouble for cutting corners in order to keep up.

Is it a comfortable volume or do you find yourself having to rush? Do you think you could do a better job with less work?

hughesthewho1 karma

It fluctuates. I have a pretty big work load right now, but my co-workers help as they can. We support each other. I am comfortable with it now. The thing is, there is always more you feel you could be doing. I could call back more quickly, spend more time listening, worker harder to get the right therapist for a child. We do as best we can :)

iwanttofork1 karma

Do you find yourself thinking about the families after your work day is over or do you completely separate work and home?

hughesthewho3 karma

I often think about them. It's hard not to. I dream about them too often, and sometimes my dream self thinks of better solutions than my awake self!

Stoop1dxmunk3y1 karma

How often is it that people overreact and pull out a weapon of some sort?

hughesthewho1 karma

It's never happened to me personally. People are usually understanding of your role, even if they don't agree with it. If you aren't upset at the thought of your child being removed, that's weird. Being upset is a natural and normal response.

JSB16041 karma

I had a situation where my family had CPS called on them because a sibling claims he was abused (there had been an altercation where my dad had to restrain him because he was getting violent. They fell on some boxes and my sibling ended up with bruises).

My sibling is not a nice person. He's stealing things from the family so he can buy pot, he acts up and doesn't give respect to anyone. He pretty much just does whatever he wants because he threatens our parents with calling CPS again.

What do you suggest in a case like this?

hughesthewho2 karma

I don't want to give you too much advice, as every state operates differently and I wouldn't want to put your family into a worse situation. However, if it were me, I would reach out to your local human services and let them know that this is happening, and you're not sure how to help. It sounds like this young man could really use some support in the form of counseling or the like, and that the parents could benefit from support in the form of a parents group, counseling for themselves, a parent aid, etc.

fangerbutts1 karma

a few months ago when my daughter was around 2 I left my apt door opened and my daughter wondered out into the street. a neighbor sent her back into the driveway and I found her there when i discovered she had wondered out of the apt

fast forward until a few weeks ago, i took out the trash, and my daughter now 3 followed me to the curb. i didn't see her and i walked back into my driveway and I as sweeping some leaves and the same lady from a few months prior saw my daugther out by the curb and called the cops on me after getting down from her car and yelling at me, calling me a bad dad for not watching my kid. she threatened to call the cops and being a dumb ass i said "fine, call them" and she did.

they showed up and i refused to answer any questions, but when they demanded to see that my daughter was safe, i had her mom bring her out( i had taken her inside when the cops came), they talked to her, took a report, and left. they didn't even ask my name, just my wife & daughers.

now i have cps investigating me. should I be worried? my wife already has been interviewed by the cps lady and eplained what happened, had her sign some action plan or something confirming she would be watching her more closely in the future. i as going to be interviewed too but the lady ended up cancelling cuz she had court. should I call her back and reschedule? or can I just wait it out and hope she leaves me alone? they haven't done a house visit yet, because the first time they tried they didn't have a warrant and so we refused. i don't really have a problem with it but it does make me a bit nervous, i'm a casual Mj smoker. i don't want to invite them back.

hughesthewho17 karma

If what you say is true (which I have no reason to believe it is not) I would say talk to the CPS worker. She will most likely have to talk to you to finish her report, and the easier you make it, the faster she will be out of your life. She will not want to mess around and spend a lot of time with a family that doesn't actually need her services. I can't guarantee this obviously, as I don't know what state you live in and every state (even every county in that state) does things differently.

It sounds like the worker had your wife sign a "Safety Plan." I would just be upfront with what happened, and listen to any advice she has. She just wants to make sure your daughter is really safe. It feels VERY invasive, but it's with good intentions.

teflange-2 karma

It sounds like the worker had your wife sign a "Safety Plan." I would just be upfront with what happened, and listen to any advice she has. She just wants to make sure your daughter is really safe. It feels VERY invasive, but it's with good intentions.

You realize that "good intentions" accompany every manifestation of governmental tyranny ever, from Nazi Germany ensuring citizens weren't harboring "dangerous" Jews to China's Cultural Revolution to the Red Scare?

What if he and his wife just politely said "No, you can't come into my home and I won't sign anything. I've done nothing wrong, my child is in good health, go away.", as they are perfectly legally entitled to do?

We both know what would happen next - the possibly well-meaning (or just as likely ill-natured and vindictive) social worker would activate the tyrannical CPS apparatus, forcibly remove the child from the home and/or compel compliance with CPS extra-judicial rules which ignore states' and the US constitution under the battle cry of "Good Intentions!".

hughesthewho2 karma

I do not know that that would have happened. I have never seen that happen myself. Additionally, I know very little about this case. All I can tell the writer, is that if it were me, I would just like to see that the kid is fine and move on. I have too many families who actually are struggling to waste time with the ones that aren't.

I'm really sorry if you have not had that experience with our system, as it sounds like you have had very negative experiences.

teflange0 karma

You should be very, very afraid. CPS operates outside the bounds of ordinary law enforcement; you essentially have to prove yourself innocent of whatever "crimes" they wish to accuse you of.

What law enforcement group can coerce you into signing some arbitrary agreement under threat of forcibly taking your children? Where is that in the constitution? Nowhere. What group can legally enter and search your home without a warrant? None - except CPS. Which can order you to submit to drug testing, force you to attend classes, meet with them and be present at "hearings" without having charged you with an actual crime? None - except CPS.

They are financially incentivized to intrude into your life and to remove children from homes; it is how they justify their budget, their staffing, and their entire operation.

If the people you are dealing with like you okay and you don't piss them off they will likely leave you alone. If on the other hand they decide they don't like you, the degree to which they can screw up your life (up to and including selling your children to "foster parents") is almost infinite.

If I were you I'd stop smoking because it's quite likely they will order drug testing to ensure you aren't a "risk" to your child; as I posted above the person I know who had her kids stolen by CPS tested positive for cocaine; this was the reason given for the removal. Good luck.

hughesthewho9 karma

Honestly, I don't agree with much of this, but I can not speak for other jurisdictions out side of my own. I'm sorry if this is the impression that CPS in your area has left you with. If it's even partially true, that's not acceptable.

The safety plan is not a law-binding agreement. It's just a tool to figure out how to keep that kiddo safe. You don't have to do anything until a judge orders it, FYI. CPS will have to take you into court before they can make you do anything, and you have the right to a judge, jury, and trial.

Additionally, it's extremely costly to put children into foster care. A single child can cost the county $1000 a month (or more). That cost is on the county and state. Whenever possible, my agency asks us to first and foremost keep kids at home.

I don't want to argue with things you feel are definitely true. I can only say what my experience has been.

teflange1 karma

Thanks, I appreciate your well-considered answers and excellent AMA; keep up the good work!

hughesthewho1 karma

Same to you. I really appreciate your passion!

maybethistimeiwin1 karma

What is your education background?

I have a BS in psychology and am looking to do something in that field. Any tips to help get me into social work?

hughesthewho-1 karma

BA in Child Psychology, BS in Youth Development Studies (like social justice with a youth lens). I also have my MSW and was specially trained to be in the field of CPS (through a program called Title IV-E).

With a degree is social work, especially MSW, you can do SO MANY different things, not just CPS. I definitely recommend it. You can also do licensed therapy work, community work, policy... that's the best part of the degree.

Makern1 karma

Have you ever taken a child away from parents, that you knew wasn't the right thing to do but had to because the rules required it?

Sorry for the cliche movie question but I've been wondering that for awhile.

hughesthewho1 karma

Not cliche at all. I have never personally done that. I feel strongly, as does my agency, about only removing in the most dire of circumstances.

badmindreader1 karma

How do you deal with burnout? Do you have a BS? Do you or any of your colleagues get by with just an AS?

hughesthewho1 karma

I have an MSW, but I know of those who have a BS. I think burnout can be managed, see my other posts... sorry lots of questions!

iSwm421 karma

Do quaker parents have a reputation for being off-the-wall crazy?

hughesthewho1 karma

Not necessarily. We do see some pretty extreme cases where religion is involved, but I don't know if I've ever worked with a quaker family before.

beebzzbzz1 karma

How does your agency separate the cases? Do you have generic units or specialized units?

hughesthewho1 karma

  • Access: takes the reports and decides if they warrant further intervention.

  • Intake/Initial Assessment: Investigates reports. Makes safety decisions. Removes children if necessary. Most often, just puts services into place and leaves families alone.

  • Ongoing (my job): Gets cases from Intake that are serious enough to need follow up (i.e. children were removed, family needs more help). We have these cases until case closure (i.e. children returned, family is on their feet again, children don't go home and get adopted)

We also have a reunification team that is added when we want to return kids home. They help make that happen.

StanintheVan1 karma

My daughter has a BSW and is headed for MSW. She is currently working in teaching job readiness to the unemployed. What is the best advice you can give her for her future as a Social Worker? Thanks.

hughesthewho1 karma

Take care of yourself (see some of my self-care posts on here already). Don't check your email when you're not at work. Laugh as much as possible, even when things are hard. Know that you're in the best profession in the world :)

hipsterarcade1 karma

My (now ex) girlfriend, my school's principal and guidance counselor, and friends of the family had all routinely been calling the CPS office in our area, to no avail. When the principal called, they told him that the "descriptions of the abuse were not serious enough" and when she called herself, the woman on the phone told her to quit exaggerating. CPS never once investigated the household, never once talked to her 11 year-old or 8 year-old siblings, or anything else.

Eventually she gave up, and now she's taken to doing drugs and drinking. So my question is: What constitutes "serious enough abuse"? And what kinds of things do you guys usually do to investigate these kinds of incidences? Please tell me that this kind of thing isn't common.

hughesthewho1 karma

It varies depending on the area. Unfortunately in urban areas, only observable things will get investigated... as they only have time for the worst of the worst. In a small town, almost every report gets screened in.

I work in an area that is mixed urban and rural. We would have most likely investigated this. Can I ask what your major concerns for the children are? Maybe I can help think of how to word it when you make a report.

pimpquin1 karma

I am thinking of going to school for social work, what are some of the better aspect of your job and what are some of the downfalls?

hughesthewho2 karma

Best: Feeling like you're doing something real. Getting to do so MANY different things (go to court, sit in peoples homes, coordinate services, run meetings, play with kids, provide basic therapeutic counseling, drive a mom to the hospital, etc) We wear so many different hats, no two days are the same.

Downfalls: changing expectations of the state (i.e. paperwork being changed and added to, etc). People not understanding what you do. Clients being REALLY REALLY mad at you.

Thing is, with a social work degree, you can do SO many different jobs. You aren't just restricted to CPS. Go for it!

RightWingersSuck1 karma

How frequently do you feel you've achieved a successful outcome?

I think people generally feel that this interventions always end badly. I think this is probably a misconception.

hughesthewho1 karma

Definitely a misconception, as I see success everyday. We only work with families in the worst of situations. The vast majority of reports are screened out, the vast majority of families who are investigated are offered services and left alone with that additional support. I see the ones that are bad enough to pass through all those layers, and I still see success every day!

low_lvl_peon0 karma

Can you carry a concealed weapon while working?

hughesthewho7 karma

I don't know, I don't think so. I wouldn't want to anyways. Why should someone trust me to come into their home and talk about safety with a gun on me??

teflange0 karma

I have often wondered at what legal framework purportedly exists to allow a government bureaucracy to appropriate citizens' children when there is little or no evidence of physical abuse or severe neglect. I personally know someone whose young children were stolen from her by government workers because she tested positive for cocaine, with no evidence or assertion of neglect or abuse. Really, recreational drug use means the government can steal your children?

Like so many government organizations initiated with an admirable motive ("protect the children"), I feel that CPS has become a power-hungry, unconstitutional, and fascist apparatus that exceeds its purview and does far more harm than good. It operates outside of the normal system of justice and places unusual and inane requirements on parents to prove themselves worthy of keeping (or winning back from the State) their own children.

Further, the State's "solution" for handling children kidnapped from their families - whether morally justified or not - is often times worse than the situation the children were in before; foster care is riddled with state-sponsored child abuse and neglect - the very things it is supposed to be preventing.

Like police forces and their drug war asset forfeiture laws, CPS has become a self-serving, child-confiscating nightmare organization that sustains itself on the backs of citizens and their children. Foster parents, case workers, judges, state psychologists...all are funded based upon the number of children they kidnap and "help", and the number of parents they trap into the never-ending revolving door of "training classes", court appearances, home visits, drug tests, etc. ad nauseum.

I'm sure you and many of your coworkers are well-meaning and caring individuals. Nevertheless you represent a vast, extra-judicial overreach by government and your apparatus should be dissolved immediately. Along with so many parasitic government organizations you have hugely outgrown your initial dubious usefulness and need to be eradicated and replaced from the ground up with some kind of organization that conforms to constitutional law and provides a net benefit to society, rather than a massive net detriment.

hughesthewho5 karma

I am sorry to hear that your friend had this experience after her drug use. In our agency drug use alone is not a reason to remove a child, there must be evidence that her parental capacities are substantially impaired.

I understand your point of view. Many people feel the same way. I went into this field knowing it was not perfect, and do my best to challenge the system when I feel it is wrong, or as you put it, "over-reaching."

I still feel, with all that I have seen, that we exist for a reason. I also feel that CPS has become the catch all for our society's failure to take care of their own. Our job is to keep kids safe, NOT to solve poverty, addiction, violence, and inequality.

I would love for people with your passion to help find ways for our society to seriously work on these issues. If we can, then this system that you have made clear you hate (and with good reason) will have no purpose.

Lastly, I know it is believed that we get financial kick-back for removing children. This is not the case. Foster care is extremely expensive to counties. My agency has told us to remove at a last resort, because it is so expensive.

TL;DR- My job: I'm not out to steal your kid. I really don't want your kid. I want your kid to be safe is YOUR home. Please take care of your kid.

eighmie2 karma

I like how OP did not answer your question.

hughesthewho0 karma

Please see below. There are a lot of questions, I apologize for any delay.

Beanz1560 karma

as someone going to school for their BSW, were you able to attain this job with just a BSW? or did you go to grad-school for your MSW?

hughesthewho1 karma

I did go to grad school for my MSW, but in most states this is a job you can do with a BSW. Every state is different, so I would check with the agency you'd like to work with!

Tails10 karma

Can a child I n nj get anonymous therapy somehow?

hughesthewho1 karma

Call the 2-1-1 United Way help line. They may have ideas for your area.

Babyrobin840 karma

OP, thanks for doing an AMA as a CPS worker. I too work in CPS (5 years on 6/11/13) and don't see too many references to CPS on Reddit.

Hang in there. Believe me, I KNOW it's tough.

hughesthewho-1 karma

Thank you! Good luck to you. I wish we has a secret handshake. It would make me feel really cool :)

xtiaaneubaten0 karma

how do you deal with what you have to see? my faith in humanity is shaky at the best of times, if I had to see neglected/abused kids all day, I just dont know that I could do it...

hughesthewho6 karma

I love people. I believe in people. Yes I see shitty things people do everyday, but I also see incredible resiliency. People surviving, loving, making things the best they can, in the worst of situations.

Also self care. My self care include painting, relaxing, wine, friends, movies, laughter, really shitty teenager books, being outside as much as possible... :)

xtiaaneubaten1 karma

all power to you, its sad that so many kids need so much looking after.

hughesthewho1 karma

It takes all of us. The more communities do to look after their children, the less I have to be involved at all.

EastofTheRiver0 karma

They are hiring for a CPS Investigator trainee in my city. Would you recommend this job? I think I read that investigators are on call 24/7. Is that true?

hughesthewho1 karma

It depends on the agency. At mine, you have to volunteer to be "on-call" during off hours... any people fight for it because it's great pay. Investigators do have less predictable schedules. If you have an emergency report come in at 4:00pm, you might be out until late at night. Luckily, our agency lets you flex your time... so if you were out late you can come in late the next day.

allicov0 karma

Do you know any of the kids well, and when they get adopted you think, "good luck with that one"?

I ask because my aunt and uncle recently adopted a ten year old girl and she was horrible. She was manipulative and treated her older brother like shit and they never did anything about it. He was even kicked out of his room and moved into an extremely small one on a couch bed because she gave such a fuss about waiting until they could afford to buy her one.

hughesthewho1 karma

Many of our kids have experienced unspeakable trauma. They need a great deal of extra work and care after what they've been through, and I have the MOST respect for their adoptive and foster caretakers. That is the hardest job of all.

friedjumboshrimp0 karma

What racial stereotypes do you find to be true in your field of work?

hughesthewho35 karma

I think really this job has shown me that poverty, abuse, neglect... all of it transcends class and racial lines. Poor people beat their kids, rich people beat their kids, black, white, latino, asian... sad but true.

Unfortunately, racial minorities tend to have a lot more visibility to professionals who report them to us. That is ONE reason we see them more often in the system. Minority over-representation is a HUGE problem in CPS, and one that at least the county I work for is trying to work on.

That being said, to really answer your question fully. I do believe it's a cultural norm for african american families (when compared to white) to all help out when raising families. Lot of aunties and uncles step up to the plate when we look for placements, which is not as much the case in white families.

uliaryth0 karma

Any thoughts on Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl? Will that case impact how you do your work, or how you approach your work?

hughesthewho2 karma

At a quick glance, this looks like it relates to ICWA. ICWA was very important legislation to our field, and I honestly wish that every minority racial/ethnic group had this kind of protection or reinforcement. When we come into contact with a child with Native American ancestry, we are obligated to contact their tribe and turn the case over to them. With all of the historical trauma that these communities have experienced at the hands of government agencies, it's the least we can do.

The_Patrick_Bateman_-1 karma

My experience with the CPS has proven to me that your organization is mainly filled with biased idiots. I was living with my mother in a unfit home around the time I was 10 and was around hard drugs frequently and there was ample evidence that this was happening(witnesses including police officers) and your organization and the courts thought that was a better place for me then living with my father who the only fault against him was that he worked long hours. This continued till my other family members took matters into there own hands and took custody of me themselves.

So tldr your organization is biased against men even in the face of overwhelming evidence the father is always wrong. By the way this is in NY state If that matters

hughesthewho0 karma

It does matter, as every state does things differently. Your story matters as well. I am saddened to hear that this was the case, as it sounds like your dad could have given you a much more stable home. The only thing I can tell you is that recently there has been policy work around including fathers as much as possible. Often mothers are the gatekeepers to fathers, and can choose whether to tell us their identities or not. I hope we can do better, less biased work in the future.

iSwm42-1 karma

Where is the line between parents who are really overprotective and parents who are actually an issue at this level? I'm 18 and just leaving home and I could never decide if I should've gotten someone involved with my parents and the various issues we had.

hughesthewho6 karma

I cannot really make a call comfortably, without knowing more. Overprotective sounds a bit to me like they were controlling? If you feel like you had some experiences that were difficult for you in your childhood, I would recommend speaking to a counselor to work through some of those experiences in a healthy way.

Toallpointswest-1 karma

Okay, so a friends ex-husband sends their child to school in the same clothes for 3 days straight, is that some kind of abuse?

hughesthewho2 karma

It's concerning, but I wouldn't say that's abuse. It's a bit neglectful at this point. I would encourage you to make sure the family is ok, and has everything they need. They may just need some help.