When CPS Workers Confuse Poverty w/Neglect..They Live Forever…


A single mother has  fallen on hard times with the sudden departure of her husband. He has recently abandoned her and her son for a woman, his mistress from a love affair.

This mother is distraught & undoubtedly depressed.  She was caught off guard and was left without a job after having been a housewife for many years.

This mother went  from an affluent wife to a single poverty stricken mother. She does not know where to begin her new life, for she is still in shock from the ending of her old life.  She is, as any woman would be, terribly depressed at the failure of her marriage, but,  one thing she knows for certain is that  she has a son to care for.

She musters up the strength of will to keep going, however difficult it is . Some days seem impossible to do what she has to, but she finds the will to take care of her boy. They are very close, even moreso since finding themselves alone. They are partners against the world, each night saying prayers and assuring one another that times will get better, just have faith.

One day, her electric bill came due.  In her newfound budget, she had mistakenly overspent at the grocery store and the lights get shut off.

Her soon to be ex comes by to surprise her with divorce papers .  He announces that he is on his way out of town for a “new job somewhere “.  When she asks where, he won’t disclose any details and it angers him.

The former couple begin to argue and he remarks of the mother and child living  in the dark with candles lit and a fire in the fireplace.

When she insists that it is his fault for leaving them without warning, insisting on knowing where he’s moving for this job, he threatens to take her son with him if she doesn’t stop badgering.

The next day calls CPS and a social worker comes out, and finds the home without electricity, and removes the child into foster care. The father has already left town and isn’t readily found, and the mother falls apart.

The child never comes home again.

This mother is sustained on a finding of ‘neglectful supervision’ because she “should have known” better than to allow her electricity to get shut off .  The social worker stated in her report that the mother failed to apply for assistance before it came down to that and if she overlooks something like electricity, she is probably overlooking  other needs of the child’s.  These  activities could leave the child at serious risk of harm.That’s what the report said.

Truth is though, she is poor and suffering at a tragic time in their life.   That does not mean she neglects her child, she just needs a boost to start their new life.  Maybe some assistance.  It was the only time their electricity was cut off, she never considered it before because it never happened.

The CPS worker jumped to immediate conclusions, and should have helped the mother find ways to improve her situation, request assistance, apply for legal aid and get child support. There were many ways the problem was easily remedied.

However, poverty was mistaken for neglect, and defined “at risk ” when there’s never been any risk to the child, the problems begin with the definitions of abuse/neglect. Then, the problems end with the willingness to remove children being stronger than the desire to keep the child at home.

A CPS social worker who is unable to familiarize herself with this poor but loving family that needs a little boost in life, offer some counseling maybe, or a support group for divorcing women is the first problem that should be solved.

Why is she unable to do this?  Most likely its due to the tremendous caseload she has stacked in front of her… Perhaps she does not mean to overlook this family… but because she has so much to do, she inadvertently tosses this family into the black pit of a child welfare system’s worst side, needlessly removes the child from the home, and places him in foster care.

Even worse, the shortage of foster homes takes this child too far away to visit regularly because there were no other openings.  Later, he gets abused there and nobody finds out until too late and permanent injuries are suffered.  The mother has fallen apart and can’t seem to get the help she needs, so she is labeled overly emotional.  CPS puts her through psychiatric evaluations one after the other, until finally she has a breakdown when she learns of the abuse her son has gone through. They terminate her rights.

It happens all the time in this system.

All this Mother really needed was some food stamps and assistance on her light bill for a month or two. Maybe temporary financial aid for a down payment on a new car, so she could get some job training and go back to work. Perhaps some temporary medical care to get them both back healthy again, with a flu shot, and some counseling over her divorce. and his loss of a father figure.

Instead, this mother lost her husband, then her lights, then her child, then herself, to grief.

An overzealous social worker received a spite referral from a cheating man who spent enough money on airplane drinks to pay her electric bill twice over.  Nobody tracks him down to file false allegation charges on him.

Her son no longer wants to make his Daddy proud, or thinks of  Daddy as a hero, but instead, loses his own future in drugs and alcohol.    It starts out with a beer can and a marijuana joint he smokes but eventually turns into cocaine and petty crimes in order to buy it.

The boy is a teenager in foster care.  He’s been moved so many times from home to home, facility to facility, that now, he doesn’t care anymore.  He runs away from the home often so he can do his drugs and eventually goes to jail.

Of course by then he doesn’t have anyone to call so he does time, about a year in juvenile detention.  In that year  he gets sexually abused and in fights.  A few months after being released on his 18th birthday, he gets arrested again for stealing a car.  That sentence, he gets caught up in the prison gang life and learns to hurt people, after years he spent in foster care and juvenile detention, doing a lot of fighting.  He is very angry.  It was only a light bill past due.

He is angry at his father who divorced his mother and leaving them in a shabby apartment with no lights.

He knows his father made the phone call that destroyed their life. He knows his father so cowardly ran away with another woman, and he is angry at how that hurt them.

He is angry that he lost his mother who was his best friend. He is angry that he can’t find her, and that she was taken away from him. 

He is angry that it made her fall apart, because he knows she loved him so much.

He is angry that now she is gone, and he is angry that he is behind bars, and so he fights life, and everyone in it. 

He sits and thinks about it all the time.  He thinks about the social worker who took him away from home.

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Are you a caseworker for CPS? 

Do you volunteer for CASA while you go to school?

Do you hope to be a social worker and help abused kids one day?

Do you want to be a social worker when you graduate college? 

Do you work for the advocacy center doing forensic interviews?

Is that you?

Okay, next question… do you want to live forever?

Carry on a legacy?

Make a difference in someone’s life?

Change history?

Well, here this caseworker did it without a lick of effort and didn’t even know it.  Its amazingly easy to live forever.

This way though, its what happens, when you confuse poverty with neglect.  You live forever.

Exactly what is abuse and neglect? 

Why is it so important to define these two words?

Abuse and neglect are the defined allegations used as justification for removing children from their natural homes.

They are the acts of parents that CPS has “reason to believe”  did occur which gives them the right to remove a child from the home.

The parents are then expected to jump through hoops working their (“services”) which are outlined in the “family service plan” made to “protect”  the children from the “abuse and “neglect” …  right?

Child Protection Services. CPS – Services to Protect the Children from abuse and neglect. That is why it is so important to define Abuse & Neglect.  That is why we should not confuse poverty with neglect.

Abuse is defined as the prolonged maltreatment of another; the continued misuse of something, the mishandling thereof, the ill-handling of something.

Abuse is intentional – with forethought and deliberate action – It is causing or threatening to cause physical, mental, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual harm against a person, or a person’s beloved … (pet, family member, friend, or other loved one). Abuse is not only causing harm or injury to that person but also controlling them by placing them in fear of harm or injury against  themselves or another person.

An abuser often uses fear to control or manipulate that person into acting or performing in a certain manner bending to a will not his or her own.

Definition of Child Neglect

Child neglect is the failure to provide for the shelter, safety, supervision and nutritional needs of the child. Child neglect may be physical, educational, or emotional neglect:

  • Physical neglect includes refusal of or delay in seeking health care, abandonment, expulsion from the home or refusal to allow a runaway to return home, and inadequate supervision.
  • Educational neglect includes the allowance of chronic truancy, failure to enroll a child of mandatory school age in school, and failure to attend to a special educational need.
  • Emotional neglect includes such actions as marked inattention to the child’s needs for affection, refusal of or failure to provide needed psychological care, spouse abuse in the child’s presence, and permission of drug or alcohol use by the child.

How often is poverty confused with neglect ?   Many times.

That is why the social worker’s assessment is so valuable a tool, if used properly.  But most of the time, it is not.

The assessment identifies the services that might be able to assist a family out of a tough situation that has placed the family at risk.

Perhaps the recent loss of a job has led to hard times, and the stress has caused some issues in the parenting skills of the mother or father with their children.

Assistance with applying for financial aid, unemployment benefits, housing or food, and parenting classes, could prevent the unnecessary removal of a child from the home.

Avoiding placement in foster care when the risk is low enough that needs can be met through a service plan that keeps the family in tact, is definitely best for the family unit. So why do children enter foster care? !

Children enter foster care because of abuse and/or neglect.

The majority, however, is due to neglect, which, when neglect is a stand-alone problem (not in combination with abuse), it is often the result of inadequate housing, poor child care, or insufficient food or medical care. For example – lets take a look at poverty and an example of how it can mistakenly destroy lives with the misapplied help of CPS at its worst… so this example can remain just that – an example to learn from.

Poverty is not neglect, but the two get tied together in a tragic knot.

So if you ask the grown up little boy who could have changed it all…  he’ll tell you … He will say the social worker could have made a difference.

He says it quickly and matter of fact – Ms. Too-Busy-To-Pay Attention social worker is who could have, and should have helped. But didn’t.

Its the social worker he blames – even more than he blames his  father. Why? Because she had the training, the power, and she was in the role,that  SHOULD HAVE helped them.

Instead she failed them.

He says “her decision killed my Mom and me, we’ll never recover.”

BUT – If you ask the caseworker about the same little boy…

She will stop, and pause, and shake her head before she walks away telling you she hasn’t the time to discuss a case that was “over so long ago.”  

Besides, she could not even remember which one he was – the boy without electricity.

She laughs, “How much more vague can you be?”

She will carry on as if he never existed.  That case was 0ne of many to her. Hell, she hasn’t even worked for CPS now for years – that was only a summer job she had once.

To him, though, his case, and this social worker is everything.

She is the reason he has no home, no life, no mother, no education, no wife or children.

She is the reason he is nothing, a statistic, with no goals, no dreams, no hope, no will to live.

She is the reason he is angry with an addiction to drugs.

To him, the CPS Social Worker is a face he cannot forget.

She has the name that haunts him.

She is the woman that he seethes, day in and day out.

But to the social worker, he was a number on a file she might recall if she dug it up and looked again. Maybe.

To him, she has ripped a hole in the bond between his mother & him.

She destroyed his family unit that probably will never be repaired.

Because of her, he quits school & lives on the streets.

That’s not child protection. That’s child sabotage.

the social worker now lives forever…

to that little boy …

(c) 2009 Forever May, J.Murphy

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