The Juniper Files: Child Protective Services and Special Needs
Some parents of special needs children have vague and unspecified fears whereChild Protective Service (CPS) is concerned. We hear all the different horror stories. Especially about CPS intervening where medication is concerned. They may try to say we are over medicating or using medication to cover for sub-par parenting skills. Or they may say that we are neglecting our children when we seek alternate treatment options and second opinions.
And I know there are parents out there guilty of these things. But unfortunately, once we hit the radar it becomes almost a case of being guilty until you prove yourself innocent.
In our case I was lucky. This is a hard story to share but there are important lessons in it.
About seven years ago I was working as the director of a child care facility. The owners were neither local nor knowledgeable, leaving me with a great deal of responsibility. I have never had alternative childcare arrangements. I specifically took a career in child care to be near my kids, it was the next best thing to being a SAHM.
I went to great lengths to train and educate the staff on my daughter’s temperament and disorders. They were also instructed to send her to me or call for me if she showed signs of agitation. I did not want her lashing out at other children or staff members.
There was an employee, who we’ll call Abbie, who was feeling disgruntled. The owners had been suggesting I fire her since the day I walked in the door. But, silly me, I saw potential in her. She was dependable and flexible. She always
did what I asked and always helped make sure there was coverage even if she wasn’t being paid for it. I stood up for her and then I had to call her in to give her a serious warning.
She took the warning personally. She thought I had it out for her and only pretended to like her. She was young, immature and insecure. All these ingredients combined to inspire a really bad idea.
When she had my daughter and a group of kids alone she took advantage of the situation to instigate a rage and video tape it. She then turned the tape over to CPS and made a report that we were knowingly allowing a violent child to hurt other children.
This charge in and of itself was easy enough to disprove. Unfortunately, the caseworker assigned decided to launch her own investigation.
She initially requested the list of medications my daughter was on as proof that she was receiving treatment. She then used this list against me. She claimed that, based on her own nursing experience, I was over medicating my daughter. She stated I did not know what I was doing and that I was not fit to be a parent. She was going to request that my daughter be removed from my care.
Excuse me? Oh hell no.
What she failed to realize was that I was not new to this and I did know what I was doing. Very well, thank you very much. I kept very detailed records, medication usage and reasons for stopping, Dr visits, mood charts and so on. I also keep a good rapport with everyone on her treatment team. I rallied my troops. Psychiatrist, therapist, case manager, school rep and pediatrician. I went above this caseworker and contacted a department supervisor.
What were the real facts?
I felt my daughter was on too much medication. That is why two months before this incident I changed pdocs. We were in a (painfully slow) process of changing out and cutting down her “cocktail”. I was proactive with her school, kept all appointments, questioned everyone about everything, always followed up with my own research, etc.
Not only was my case dismissed, but so was the worker. She failed to gather all the facts and she was incredibly rude and mean to everyone she spoke with.
While I never like to see anyone lose their job, I think she was in a position to do a lot of harm.
Unfortunately, even with a dismissed case, there were repercussions. The entire situation was frightening and traumatic for my daughter who now has a great fear of police officers (they were present during her questioning).
I think the system could really use more training when it comes to families with special needs. They need to know the right questions to ask and to be sensitive to what families are already going through. I feel in too many cases social workers becomes so set on saving every child they don’t see cases clearly.
What about you, dear readers? Have you had an experience with CPS? Do have your own set of fears? Do you have advice for families in this situation? Share a link to your story in the comments or, if you do not have a blog, fill out the contact form for this column.