I’ve been thinking lately about CPS. I kind of got slapped with a new perspective on it recently and am still trying to figure things out. I have a friend who is a nurse. After retiring, she decided to volunteer as a foster mom. Originally, she was there just for medically fragile, children, which is her specialty. She also happens to lead classes in how to care for medically fragile children, who are usually hard to place. But she has fallen into offering emergency placement for infants, as her place is pretty small. She has had one with several broken bones, that put him into a body cast for a while. Others have been quite healthy, but neglected. Some come from homes with a long history with CPS, and older siblings already in the system. These children typically blossom with regular care, feeding, bathing and attention. She often brings them to church so others may have a chance to hold them and talk to them.
Often the topic has come up, and we all are amazed that the birth parents would not just fall in love with these little ones, as we do. It’s hard for us to imagine how someone could break the bones of a tiny baby, who as far as we can see, was a good natured little thing most of the time anyway. And we wonder how it is that some people have proven themselves incompetent to care for children, yet they continue to have them. One was pretty much abandoned by the mother, another action we find simply unfathomable. Of course, in other cases, CPS is working toward reunification of the family. Sometimes we wonder if that is wise, though surely some young parents simply need a little bit of training in how to be a parent.
But now I have encountered the situation from the eyes of someone caught up in the system and sometimes CPS can be part of the problem. What I found was a single parent, doing all in their power to keep their family together after the other parent left. I wouldn’t say that there wasn’t good reason for the children to have been placed in foster care, in the beginning. But the remaining parent did exactly what the courts and CPS demanded. There was anger management, which was taken to heart and implemented. There were parenting classes attended and also taken to heart and implemented. And there was treatment for alcohol problems, giving this parent better ways to handle their emotions.
The process for getting the kids back involved visits, and this parent made sure not to miss a single one. There were home visits and this person took a good deal of pride in how clean they could make the place. They were going to college, trying to better themselves. Eventually they did get the kids back, but of course there was an expected period during which there would still be regular inspections to make sure the place was clean and there was food in the house. I recall some time ago that they were expecting to have the last inspection, after which I assume that normally you would only encounter CPS again if someone made a complaint. Of course there wasn’t much money, but they continued to make needed repairs on their residence and keep it as clean as possible with children around.
Problem was, apparently there was always something the CPS people didn’t like. Maybe the kids tracked mud onto the clean floor, or perhaps it was because it was an old house and the repairs didn’t always hold? I don’t know, but hear from others that the expectation is for the place to be immaculate, without allowances for the normal clutter that most of us have with children in the house. The children were clean, they were fed and they were working on homework every night alongside their parent. The house was probably as clean as a single parent with multiple kids can manage. But always there was a threat hanging over their heads, that the kids might be taken away again.
Eventually, the money situation became so dire that the parent took a job when they were two classes shy of their AA degree. I’m sure they tried to continue the classes but suspect that work hours made that impossible. There again, we are hoping for these people to find jobs and get off welfare, right? They required assistance with before and after school care, but otherwise were doing well. Yet still the threat hangs over all of them, years after they did all they were supposed to do.
The parent took the kids everywhere with them, in order not to be accused of leaving them unsupervised. But of course, the kids are 3 or more years older than when all of this started. Eventually the oldest ones started begging to be allowed to stay home for short periods of time unsupervised. To my way of thinking, this is necessary for 12 and 13 year old kids. In fact, the policy is that such short times on their own can start at age 10. But when the parent finally allowed them to stay together, just the older ones, CPS came and was threatening to take the kids away again and threatening to arrest the remaining parent.
There is more to that story, but I won’t go into it here. My point is that something is wrong with the system, if when you have someone who is actually doing all the things they are told to do, yet they never “graduate.” I can’t see how constant pressure and threats could be helpful in any case. And this situation was as stressful for those kids as for their parent. How is CPS helping by continuing to harass a responsible parent who made mistakes in the middle of a breakup, but has grown up and taken responsibility for their past and future?