Failure to Protect and Serve
Americans place their lives in the hands of their government. We trust that in doing so, things will inevitably work out in the correct way. However, this is not the case for many children who become lost in the Child Protective Services; or CPS organization. Texas has a separate system of courts that directly handles the cases in which a family’s structure, practices, and techniques come into question called the family courts. However, these courts often become overburdened and make serious mistakes sending children back into circumstances which offer little to no hope for a bright future. Their primary goal is to “reunite children with their families.” Serious consideration needs to be explored as to whom; the parents or the children, this goal most benefits. I hope to thoroughly explore the system, its workers, and its structure to show its extreme need for improvement and the effects that it is having on the children involved. I also will present the dilemma that many face when determining an effective course of action for improvement. As Toni Terling-Watt concluded in a study of the same nature, “Even if caseworkers could devote extensive time to cases, they don’t have the tools to repair all these families. However, removing children with no place to send them is not an effective solution either.”
In the state of Texas there are many reasons that CPS can be called to a home to investigate. A personal family member can observe questionable behavior, a teacher could be concerned, or a neighbor or even a government official could witness abuse in some form or another. CPS questions families that may be physically, sexually, or emotionally abusing a child. Usually, a home visit is scheduled within a short period of time to witness the conditions that a child is living in, observe their behavior and confirm that a parent in sufficiently taking care of the child or children. Usually, shot records are checked to make sure that they are up to date. Also, CPS attempts to ensure that the child is attending school, has a clean place to sleep, clothing, and enough food in the home. If a case worker observes a mildly dirty home or missing food they may ask to come back in a few hours or days to make sure that conditions have improved. However, if poor conditions are extreme, the child may be removed from the home immediately and placed with a suitable family member or foster care. From this point, the family works with their case worker to attend necessary court dates to determine the appropriate course of action for reunification. In most cases, the parents are required to improve the bad situation by getting and sustaining a job, attending classes directed at their specific problem (neglect, substance abuse, physical or sexual abuse etc.), and cleaning/preparing the home in a livable way. A reunification date is then set to reassess the situation and (hopefully) return the child to live with their parents.
The major problem with this process is the “smoke and mirrors” approach that many parents use to get past the system. One caseworker expressed her frustration with this issue by stating, “Basically, if they cooperate, that is how they win (Terling-Watt)!” It is simple for someone under investigation to clean up their house enough to please CPS. I remember years ago witnessing a close family member do just this. She would frantically call everyone that she knew to rush to her house and clean for a few hours before CPS came to see her disgusting home in which the children were sorely neglected and emotionally abused. She, like many others, reenters the system every once in a while just to be thrown right back out after covering up the neglect and abuse. “A previous study utilizing these files showed that cases involving neglect, previous referrals, criminal history of the caregiver, substance abuse, parents’ competency limitations, and social support deficiencies had a higher risk of system...
References: “A Communitarian Critique of the Child Protective System.” EBSCOhost 27 Nov. 2009.
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