CPS Showed Up at My Door: An On-Going Lesson in Consequences
By Brandi Douglass on October 12, 2011
I've been sitting here for a couple of hours. Writing. Deleting. Thinking. Fuming. Shaking with rage. Debating. Writing some more. More furious shaking. More deleting. More debating.
I know that logically calling attention to a troll only feeds their ego and gives them ammunition. In this case, however, we're talking about something much more sinister than a troll. We're talking about someone out to hurt a family. My family.
I received a knock on my door this afternoon, and when I answered it I was met by a small, blonde woman who announced that she was from child protective services and she needed to talk to me.
If you've never had that experience (and I hope you never have), let me try to describe how it feels. Your heart starts racing. Your mind starts spinning, frantically trying to recall something -- anything -- that could warrant a visit from CPS. I was in full panic mode, but trying my very best to hold it together. Or to at least not pass out.
We sat down in my living room and she informed me that the office had received a call from someone claiming that I wrote a blog post that was mentally abusive toward my oldest son, Ben. It was THIS post. Take a moment to read it.
Yes. That caused someone to feel justified to call CPS.
The woman from CPS then said, "I'm not here to take away your kids."
And I couldn't hold it together anymore. I guess just the idea that she could have been there to take them away was too much. I totally lost it.
We talked for awhile about things -- she told me she had taken each child from class individually to question them. That she had talked to Ben about it more in depth and with more specifics.
I asked her flat out if she felt I was out of line with the post. She assured me that neither she nor her supervisor felt it was an issue. Certainly not one for CPS to be involved in.
I'm not sure what exactly the person who made the report thought would come of this, but I'd like to tell him or her what did come of it.
My youngest, Amelia, had to be picked up from school because she was too upset. She has never even been spanked, so being taken to the office and asked by a stranger if her parents hit her was confusing and terrifying. Once she had some time to mull it over in her six-year-old brain after the interview, she became afraid that it meant I would start hitting her.
Amelia is an extremely anxious child by nature. She bites her nails, sucks on fabric to self soothe, and has recently developed trichotillomania. That's when someone pulls out their hair impulsively when stressed. We'd had it somewhat under control, but by the time I got her home from school a three inch by three inch section on the side of her head was completely bald.
Luckily for my middle son, Liam, his interview took place about the time his ADHD meds were wearing off. He apparently rambled on about Legos and cats for most of it. However even he was a little disturbed that a stranger came to school, took him from class, and read off a list of punishments while asking which ones he received and when. Because that's not upsetting to a seven-year-old at all. He also felt really guilty because he told her that he got soap in his mouth a couple of times last year and was worried I would get in trouble. And then he had to lay down for awhile because his chest hurt. His pulmonary artery is a temporary replacement donor vessel, and it's wearing out. Any time he's physically active or upset, he has pain.
Ben is twelve and smart enough to understand exactly what was going on. He came home extremely upset and feeling guilty. He was afraid that they were all going to be put into foster care, and it would be his partially his fault because if he hadn't traded his calculator for Pokemon cards, I wouldn't have written about it and gotten us all in trouble.
It's been hard enough for them to deal with having a deployed parent for the past nine months (my husband is in Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division). They don't need this as well. Neither does my husband, who has to deal with the daily stress of being at war, need the additional worry.
Because I use real names and because Ben is old enough that it's possible his friends could read the blog, I always let him read any post involving him and get his permission to post it first. He was completely fine with the post in question.
I could understand if there was some indication of imminent danger or actual abuse -- be it mental or physical -- in that or any post. But there is nothing, NOTHING, in that post to warrant upsetting three children already under the strain of a deployed parent, deteriorating health and anxiety disorders.
I don't want to seem like I'm discouraging people from making reports if they feel they're warranted. It's better to be safe than sorry. But I am asking that you think long and hard about the consequences that may come of it and if those consequences are worse than the thing you're considering reporting.
There are children out there being abused and neglected. Unfortunately, social workers can't focus as much of their attention on finding and helping those kids who truly need it because they're bogged down in following up frivolous and unsubstantiated reports. By law they have to follow up, just in case. This social worker spent an entire day on this, and that doesn't include the mountain of paperwork she'll still have to do, or the required follow up visits later in the month.
No one operates in a vacuum. Everything one does has consequences -- often far reaching ones. I always consider the consequences of leading a somewhat public life, especially how my children could be affected by it. I ask all of you to do the same.
I know that many of you only know me as words on a screen, but I'm a real person. My husband is a real person. My children are real children. We all have real feelings. And these are real consequences.
The Douglass Diaries
Originally posted on my blog.
Photo Credit: cristiano_betta.