Now that I’ve started down the path of oversharing, I may as well carry on. About a month ago, my kid’s therapist pulled me into her office to disclose that my kid had shared information about abuse she suffered as a child. In California, therapists are mandatory reporters of abuse, and she let me know she would be making a report to CPS.
And actually, in California (or at least my part) there isn’t a CPS. We have a Child Welfare Services department. But they’re routinely referred to as CPS, so that’s what I’ll call them.
I’ve never heard or read a single positive thing about experiences with CPS. After I learned that my family would be the subject of a CPS investigation, I turned to the internet for information. I wanted to know what to expect, how long an investigation might take, who would be involved, that kind of thing. I’m completely out of my depth with this. Each Google search result was scarier than the previous one. There was horror story after horror story of kids being swept away before anyone said so much as, “Boo.”
And virtually every website I clicked on advised that you don’t let CPS in the front door; doing so was forfeiting your fourth amendment right against illegal search (your house) and seizure (your children). This wasn’t empowering as I had hoped. For a couple of days I kept the video camera and a notebook in the living room so I could record whatever happened with CPS. Then I realized how paranoid that was and put it all away.
It took almost three weeks for CPS to show up and ring my doorbell. The social worker came alone (no SWAT team as some websites seemed to imply). She was young, had tri-tone hair (blonde, brown and pink), and a blunt manner. She identified herself and I let her right in. We sat on the couch and talked for about half an hour and then she wanted to talk to my youngest kid (the only one home at the time).
I took her upstairs and while we were waiting for kid #3 to come out of the bathroom, the social worker looked around. No, she didn’t have a search warrant. Yeah, it was uncomfortable. But she really just looked, she didn’t wander around yanking open drawers and closet doors. It’s entirely possible I’m being naive about this.
She took kid #3 into her room to talk and I went back downstairs. I could hear the murmur of their voices and laughter, but not the actual words. Maybe 10 minutes later, she returned downstairs. She insisted we make an appointment the next day for the kid making the charges to come in to her office and talk. She informed me that she would also be contacting my other kid to make an appointment for an interview. She wasn’t sure she’d call my estranged spouse since, “We usually only talk to people who’ve seen the kids in the past month or two.”
After she left, I asked kid #3 how she was doing. She said she was fine and the social worker was really nice. So a hat tip to the social worker for being professional and not scaring the snot out of my kid.
Stayed tuned for the next installment of our ongoing drama: what it’s like in the CPS offices.