CPS invovlement
March 3, 2014 3:15 PM   Subscribe

A family member who lives in another state has an open child protective services case. All we know is that one parent is not allowed to be alone with the child for the next ninety days. We are aware that the social worker from CPS can't reveal any information, but we are concerned for the safety of the child (of course) but also for the well-being of the parent. The parent is not communicating with family. Now what?

Is there any way to understand what might be going on? I assume if the child was truly unsafe, they would have been removed from the home, so what rises to the level of required supervision like this? Both parents are present but one works. Child is too young for school. So I don't understand how the child isn't going to be alone at least sometimes with this parent. I know every state is different, but am also aware that they follow some general guidelines, is there someplace online I can look that might say "supervised parenting is required when factors such as XYZ are found."?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (7 answers total)
The court has already determined that the child is safe, even with this parent in the home. I can think of no situation where you can affect the well -being of the parent from a distance, especially given that they don't want to talk to you about it. You should stay out of it.
posted by brownrd at 3:32 PM on March 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Send a message to whichever parent you are concerned about. Say we are concerned and will help if we can.

Then wait and see if they want help.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:50 PM on March 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

The only thing you can possibly do to change the situation is to take the child into your home. You don't want to do that. They don't want you to do that. CPS doesn't want you to do that.

I think it begins and ends with a "hope you guys are doing okay!" card/email/voicemail.
posted by michaelh at 4:07 PM on March 3, 2014

Call the social worker and offer your home to the kid. Otherwise, you can't help.
posted by oceanjesse at 4:48 PM on March 3, 2014

There are times when a parent is refused contact for reasons that may be very different than what you imagine. You would be remiss to make assumptions, and could do some serious damage to relationships if you voice those assumptions.

The bottom line here, this is not your business. If it was, you would have been contacted by one of the parents, the kid, or CPS, and you weren't.

Maintain normal communication, as you would have without this knowledge/situation... in other words, be available but keep quiet.
posted by HuronBob at 4:57 PM on March 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

Being out of state, you can only offer an ear... but do so with a sincere and nonjudgmental heart. The parent is likely going through something personal or traumatic that makes them unfit to care for the child by unintentional means only.
posted by rideunicorns at 5:46 PM on March 3, 2014

The ultimate purpose of CPS is to make sure that children are safe. Kids become unsafe for reasons that range from very simple to very complex. The younger the child, the more rigid the defintion of "safe" is in the eyes of most child protection agencies (because, obviously, a 10 year old has different capabilities than a 2 year old). CPS involvement is not necessarily a big deal (even though it certainly feels like it when they're in your living room or when your relative's kids could be at-risk).

A random example of why CPS might get involved: if the parent has a health issue that could cause them to lose consciousness while caring for the child, that would be considered "unsafe" and could be a reason for CPS to say they can't be alone with the child for 90 days (pending a re-evaluation or a change in health status or..whatever). It doesn't make them a bad parent, it doesn't make them ultimately a dangerous or neglectful parent, but it could make for an unsafe situation for the young child.

Similarly, if the child was playing in the yard for a bit, unsupervised while the parent ran to the washroom, a neighbour could have reported the child as untended - and, while the investigation is open, the parent has conditions in place via CPS. The child may be fine, the situation may have been reasonably safe, but.. once a complaint is in place, most agencies are required by law to investigate it to some extent.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there are SO MANY possibilities here and some of them could happen to the best of parents. Generally, though, it's all about the safety and well-being of the child AND someone's evaluation of how safe that child is with the parent.

In terms of your asking how "the child isn't going to be alone at least sometimes with this parent" the answer is pretty clear - CPS will likely have put some pretty firm consequences in place. If the child is found to have been left alone with the parent, X will happen. It's also possible that CPS has provided some assistance with childcare for the 90 days (again, depending on the circumstances). And yes, the parents could ignore that requirement and face consequences as a result.

As a general rule, people leap to the worst conclusions when a child welfare agency is involved and, of course, sometimes it's because something awful has happened. But policies and procedures have changed at a lot of those agencies - the focus is on keeping the family together whenever possible (by providing supports, respites, financial help, etc.) and on apprehending children only when it's absolutely necessary. In the past, there was a lot of "take the kids and ask questions later" going on and, generally speaking, children suffered. Agencies slowly began to realize that it was detrimental to remove kids if there was any other option.

The flip side is that agencies have also put more rules in place about child safety so things are (in theory, at least) clearer to parents. A lot of the things my parents could have gotten away with in the early 80s would absolutely not fly now in terms of child welfare - and my parents weren't neglectful or terrible in the slightest. I know several GREAT parents who have had CPS involvement for things like "kid forgot to bring gloves to school for the third day in a row" to "kid insists on wearing the same sweatshirt for an entire month and school is worried that family can't afford new clothing".

Don't panic. If you MUST approach your relative, do it with the awareness that they have recently become involved (likely not by choice) in having their privacy invaded, their judgement questioned, their lives flipped upside down, and it may all be over something very small. They're going to be feeling judged and defensive. I would suggest waiting for your relative to approach you first.
posted by VioletU at 5:59 PM on March 3, 2014 [8 favorites]

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