Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Day Child Protective Services (CPS) Knocked at my Door

I don't typically spank my children. Something about it just never felt like it made sense. In the 7 years I've been a parent, I can count on one hand the number of spankings my kids have received. With that said, I never thought there'd be a reason for Child Protective Services to knock at my door to inspect the safety and wellbeing of my children.... 

It was a random weekday and both my husband and I happened to be home. Suddenly, there it was.... a knock, then a very nice young woman presents herself at my doorstep flashing a badge and explaining she scheduled this unannounced visit due to a report of neglect. My heart sank. I panicked. My husband and I were just about frozen. A myriad of things ran through my mind but I couldn't quite place the last time I had spanked one of my children. "Neglect? What does that mean? Who would report such a thing?" Is my house clean enough for this visit?" I mean the things I thought about were rampant and even a little weird. Turns out neglect had nothing to do with a spanking or an unclean house, we were being investigated due to medical neglect!

Now the back-story: about a week before this visit we were at a nearby lake during a long weekend. This site was a first for my family and as we settled in, I watched my children play. From a short distance my two oldest appeared to be walking along the sand. As I realize that they were walking towards a small round concrete hole in the ground used for bonfires, my mother-in-law simultaneously asks, "isn't that hot?" At that instant, I began yelling "nooooooo" and bolted towards my children. But it was too late. My daughter was just about diving into it with both feet. It was a freak accident. It was one of those moments everyone talks about..."it happened in a second." As I ran in the sand towards my daughter, those 10 seconds to get to her felt like hours and she was already burning her tiny feet. There was no actual fire but ashes (possibly from the day before) were just hot enough to do this...
My Daughter's Injury
My sweet princess cried and cried. We all jumped into action. My entire family began helping and I felt like I had failed her by allowing this to happen. My husband ran to the pharmacy and we treated her right then with ointments with the eventual plan to take her to the hospital. Growing up we avoided hospitals and so we didn't immediately rush her there. Turns out, that was our first mistake. My daughter was fine a few hours later and even better the next day. I treated her burn and had her in fuzzy slippers. I then penciled her in to see her doc. That visit was 48 hours after the incident... 48 hours turns out is too long and constituted medical neglect. Who knew? Well now, I do! And I understand why my daughter's doctor reported us to CPS. She has a job to do and for all she knows I was a deranged druggie who burned my kids feet with a crack-pipe. Hey, I didn't think it then, but after our little social worker visit, I get it now. Then again, just look at this gorgeous face... who would intentionally hurt this adorable angel?...

Well try telling that to a strange woman at your door who explained she'd need to interview you and your spouse who happens to be wearing this T-shirt...
Free T-Shirt... FAIL!
Yes, my hubby's t-shirt with the phrase: "I'm a HITTER" on display. Not funny at the time, hilarious now. Not only were we interviewed, but our children had to be interviewed. I love how the social worker asked my oldest son, "what happens when when you get in trouble?" His answer: we talk things through! Our two youngest children had to have their naked bodies inspected and a nurse had to follow up with an additional visit. My son's school was to be notified (but I refused that part... wasn't interested in letting others falsely assume we actually abused our kids). Rumors spread without details. The social worker even checked if we had food in our fridge and utilities turned on. It was all so foreign, but again if we were "terribly horrible parents" that intentionally burned our own kid, we'd probably also fail to pay our gas and water bill. 

This outrageous inspection all started to make sense and though we believe we're amazing parents, we were at this moment having to prove we were not intentionally neglectful. Relatives at the lake where my daughter was burned had to be interviewed and the whole family was suddenly dragged in to corroborate our stories. 

The social worker had a job to do and she did it well. The next day we chatted and I asked if I now had to rush to the doctor for every bump and bruise. She put me at ease and assured us we'd hear back from the department soon. There were three outcomes: the claim would be validated, inconclusive or unfounded. She believed inconclusive was to be expected, but in the end the claim was unfounded!  It felt like an eternity passed before we could be cleared from this scary situation, but unfounded turned out to be the findings. For the record this is how one would define unfoundedNot based on fact or sound evidence; groundless.

So this freak accident occurred.  It was terrifying. My daughter suffered, but we are not medically neglectful.  However, I will never forget the emotions that came over me the day CPS showed up unannounced. Our doctor did what she thought right, and if nothing came of it, these terrifying procedures are meant to actually protect children who are being abused and so these visits may actually save lives (when valid).

Our children are precious, precious beings that can be hurt in an instant by the world and all that is in it. However, it is not our place to hurt or neglect them. Now I even understand why spanking has never felt right to me. We are our children's protectors. In the end, I am happy my daughter wasn't severely injured. She has fully healed. No long-term damage or scars resulted and we ended up learning so much (i.e. inspect every new place you visit for potential hazards, never wait 48 hours to take your child to a doctor due to injury and never, ever, ever wear a t-shirt that states: I'm a HITTER, because you never know if CPS will knock on your door too).

Hard to admit this happened to us? People assume I write a mommy blog and I must be perfect! I'm positive never perfect and this was surely a learning experience for our family! Share your learning experiences in the comment section below!

6 comments:

  1. YIKES! thanks for sharing. Learned something new! We tend to avoid the doctor's office like the plague, I might have to re-think that!

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    1. Glad you learned something new Claudia!

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  2. Did they have a Warrant to enter your house?

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    1. No warrant. We were asked if we allowed it and we did. Good question.

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  3. Ok- so it took me some time to get my thoughts together as I wanted to respond yesterday.... Irene, it is a devastating experience when you have CPS knocking at your door to investigate accusations that were made against you and your husband, ESPECIALLY when you were not informed about it. I am so sorry that your family had to go through this. As a social worker with experience in healthcare and working with high risk families who in fact have serious allegations or consistent calls into CPS I can tell you that A LOT of the time these families are Latino and Black. We can get into a more in depth convo on why these families have the most involvement... poverty, lack of resources i.e. education, access to healthcare, family support etc. Now I am not saying that because your family is Latino that prompted your pediatrician to call in the report. The fact is that your pediatrician should have had the decency to talk to you and your husband about the way you guys handled the incident, importance of bringing the child in when something like this happens, given you other examples of other instances when the child should be brought to the doctor sooner than later so to speak. Part of the pediatrician's responsibility is not to scold or warn parents but to counsel them on things like this. The doctor could have also said that in instances where parents don't seek medical attn right away can result in allegations of medical neglect.
    Your pediatrician should have done his/her job and it's really shady - I mean REALLY SHADY that your ped called a report into CPS without letting you guys know especially if you have been going to him/her for a while. How long have you been going to your pediatrician? Do you guys have a rapport/relationship with your ped? I would really think twice about going back to that ped for further f/u for your kids.

    It sounds like the social worker was doing her job as per the report that was made- medical neglect. I can tell you that some doctors also have preconceived notions on how "certain" families raise their children. Doctors tend to feel that it is their responsibility to protect the children they treat and many of them are neurotic and very judgmental on how parents choose to parent their children. Of course, if a child exhibits obvious signs of abuse or neglect like bruises that are consistent with abuse, malnourished etc those are grounds for a report.

    Often times if a competent social worker is working with medical staff- you will find that social workers often educate the doctors on child abuse, neglect all that stuff so docs don't panic when real accidents come in involving a child- because I can tell you a doctor may have contacted CPS also if (s)he didn't believe what happened to your daughter even though you may have taken her to get checked out that very same day the incident happened. What I am saying sounds all nerve racking HOWEVER don't let it discourage you- or anyone else from reading your story- that your ped/doc can be a great resource to get you through the scary moments in your children's lives like bad falls, tummy aches, fevers etc. If I was in that situation I would definitely speak to my pediatrician and explain that it would have been more beneficial for the doctor to have provided some counseling/ "health education" so to speak on the situation instead of calling CPS and not informing you guys or at least informing you guys of the call after having in fact counseled you guys. SERIOUSLY- it is really upsetting to hear this.

    Good thing is you guys got through it and may be having to shop for another pediatrician ;)

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  4. Monique, thank you. This comment was beyond helpful. To be honest, I was initially pretty pissed with our doc. She's known me and my children since they were infants. During this visit however a supervisor was pulled in to examine my daughter and perhaps she made the call to report. Nonetheless, I am so with you that we should have been counseled and educated on the expectation of bringing our child in immediately. The social worker was actually the one that did this type of health counseling. The kids saw the pediatrician a few months later and I must say that was a bit of an awkward visit. I didn't shop around for a new doctor because I found her to be great with my children. Sadly, I'm beginning to reconsider since there was such a lack of communication with myself regarding these concerns and considering how we had a long standing relationship. I know she's seen our children plenty and appointment after appointment all was great. Kids in great health... Physically and emotionally. I suppose deep down I want to believe she did this due to her supervisor. But really who knows???

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