Child Protective Services (CPS) is an American government department that responds to reports of child abuse or neglect. When they stop by your house it is likely that you will be overwhelmed with many conflicting emotions: Anger, fear, worry, and even guilt are among the feelings racing through your mind. You may feel like you need to do everything and nothing all at the same time. When you’re faced with an unexpected challenge like the intervention of Child Protective Services, here’s how to cope with the ordeal from start to finish.
Overcome the Shock
Breathe. Take a couple of deep breaths and work through your emotions as best you can. It’s normal to feel like your world is falling apart when CPS is introduced into your life. You may feel like you’re no longer in control of your own family; this can be hard, but by taking a step back to breathe, you slow down your thought processes and focus on the challenge at hand.
Keep your composure. Strive to always remain in control of yourself. This will help you with your self-esteem; self-esteem will make it easier for you to retain self-composure. By composing yourself both in front of the children and the CPS officers, you come across as in control, composed, and stable. Never lash out, and, as much as possible, avoid yelling out of frustration. You may feel like snarling at neighbors, family members, and even friends. While this would make you feel better right away, it could harm you in the eyes of CPS. There are other ways to resolve conflict and you shouldn’t take out your resentment on innocent acquaintances.
Avoid placing the blame. Don’t blame your children for what has occurred. This is not their fault. They have no control over the circumstances that led to CPS becoming involved. Maybe they spoke up about abuse or neglect, but it isn’t their job to protect you if they feel that you are hurting them. They have a basic human right to be safe and feel safe. It’s your job to keep them protected and, by whatever degree, you have missed the mark. It’s time to regain momentum and piece back together the trust that was lost.
Take an honest look at yourself and your lifestyle. Some quiet introspection will do you a world of good. There are real factors that led to CPS getting involved with your family. Being in denial about it, or blaming someone else is not only wrong, but it will interfere with your ability to make a real, positive change. You must recognize the problem that spawned before you can fix it and move on.
Acceptance and Healing
Accept the fact that your CPS worker will make surprise visits to your home. Your worker has two important goals. The first is to protect the children and do what’s in their best interest. Try to understand that this is just an emergency measure. The second goal is to help you overcome any issues you may have so that your family can be reunited and back on track. Don’t attempt to shoo off CPS officers when they arrive at your door step. Their arrival is the consequence of your chosen action(s). If you do lash out, you might find yourself in more legal trouble than you had planned or can handle. Work to improve your family’s outlook. There are many things that you can and should do to improve your outlook, as well as that of others who see you and your children as a family unit.
Get into the habit of being respectful of your children and others at all times. This will go a long way to preventing this situation from reoccurring in future.
Reach out to close friends and family members. Speak frankly and unemotionally with them. If you’re sincere in your desire to improve yourself and family, they will see this. Ask them to help by letting you know if they see any warning signs of relapse. Mean it! Any time they tell you they see a problem or criticize something you’re doing, thank them and take steps to improve. Never get defensive or angry. Remember constructive change is in the best interest of you and your children’s well-being—present and future.
Create Family Stability
Reaffirm roles within the family. Family stability is vital for your children and for you. It keeps things running smoothly and helps eliminate unforeseen problems. The key is to make sure every member knows their role in the family, as well as their responsibilities. For example, if you’re the parent and you’re responsible for dinner, don’t call your kids at the last minute and pass the burden to them. Emergencies happen, but don’t do it just because you’re out with a friend or preoccupied.
Develop a high-quality, family-centered environment for your children. The aspect that separates your children from other kids their age is the environment you were raising them in which led to CPS intervention. This is why it is pivotal that you now generate an environment that is potently family-centric. This will go a long way to disperse compulsions to neglect the needs (and rights) of your children to be raised in a home that prepares them to contribute constructively to society.
Establish a daily routine for yourself and your children and stick to it. This will avert most opportunities to shirk your responsibility as a parent. For example, if your children come home from school and do as they please, you can now strategically plan to become a part of their everyday life. You could provide structure with a list of chores or duties to complete before they can roam free. Failing to instill boundaries for your children can result in their missteps and lead to chaotic, unplanned days. By getting your children actively involved in the workings of the household, you’re supplying them the guarantee of a position in the family. Additionally you are providing assurance that you’re honing your parenting skills. Make sure your kids have clean clothes for the next day.
Plan lunches for your children. Whether you pack a lunch or give them lunch money, it’s important to have this covered every day.
Make sure there’s always food in the house for your kids. Don’t let them go without breakfast. This is important; they need morning nourishment to help them excel in school.
Having these basics ready will make your life a lot easier, which, in turn, will make it easier for you to cope.
Be in control of your life. Make sure that you, yourself have a personal routine. It can take a while getting used to having control of both your daily happenings and the happenings of your children, but work on it bit-by-bit, day-by-day.
Keep yourself and your family clean. The personal hygiene of you and your children should be impeccable; this includes clothing. If you are experiencing hard times financially, thrift shops do have clothing for all ages. Adequate clothing paired with a bath or shower every single day will markedly improve the morale of your children and ignite greater content in knowing your children have been granted their basic needs.
Make sure your children have the proper health care. This includes emotional health. If they need therapy to get over any trauma, whether from their relationship with you or not, make sure they get it, and always keep track of appointments. Your case worker will help with this if you ask. Dental check-ups and doctor (GP) visits should be done at least once a year, or when the need is presented. By providing health care to your children, you’re proving to them and others that you value their well-being.
Be responsible about work. Establish a good work ethic and keep your job. If you lose your job, find another one as soon as possible. Having a constant income and being reliable is one way to demonstrate that you are serious about the well-being of your family. Even if it’s starting up a small ironing business at home with the kids, keeping busy and getting money will give you a feeling of worth and purpose.
Provide for your children’s physical needs. Even if this means you have to skip going out with your friends, make sure your money is spent on food, clothing, school supplies, and any other necessities of life that your child may need. The deportment of your children is the reflection of both your devotion and level of care you instill in your child.
Be the parent. Parenting is mix of many responsibilities. You should by no means allow your children to take the responsibility and role of a parent. You must attend to their needs. They are your offspring and you are their guardian. It’s okay to ask for help every now and then from your support network, but strive to wear the role as a parent with pride and tenacity.
Prevent Future Issues
Take the time to talk about any problems and address them as fast as you can. CPS has many programs and resources to help you prevent a relapse. It’s imperative that you take advantage of the help that they offer you. Not only will this help you, but it will indicate to the case worker(s) that you’re stepping up to the plate and wanting to improve yourself for the betterment of your family.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your case worker about any problems. They’re there to help you overcome the issues that led to their mediation in the first place.
Improve your care-giving skills and abilities. This might include taking parenting classes or undergoing anger management counseling. Even if these classes are mandatory, take them seriously. They will help you improve yourself and the way you interact with your children. Not only will you have the chance to make connections at these groups, but you can make some valuable affiliations that you can fall back on when things get tangled.
Learn coping skills. Coping skills aren’t germinated overnight, so seek help and see a therapist if you feel you just can’t get on top of everything as much as you want. Your CPS case worker will help you find treatment that you can afford. This isn’t just about your children. Coping skills are basic aptitudes that you can apply to all corners of your life.
Learn how to establish and maintain healthy and nurturing relationships. It’s important to build bonds with friends and also with your children. You can’t raise a child dynamically with just one facade: the grump. It’s okay to have a laugh with your children and show them that you can have fun. If you miss having adult conversations or need to let your hair down, see if the children’s grandparents or a babysitter can care for the kids so you can go and do whatever you please.
Avoid any further neglect or maltreatment of your children. CPS only deals with cases of child abuse or neglect. You need to do whatever it takes to make a real change in the way you interact with your children to suspend any further episodes of intervention. Understand that by expressing your discontent by making things tough on your kids heightens the discord (which is not what you want as the discord will put you back in the same situation).
Expect that your children will not exercise the judgement of an adult. It’s normal for them to get into trouble from time to time; this is part of the growing up process. Your job is to exhibit maturity and handle things with impeccable judgement. When your child stuffs up, discipline them appropriately and let them know that you love and forgive them. If you feel angry or out of control over something your child has said or done, just stop. Say something along the lines of, “We’ll talk later” and mean it. Go into another room, do something else, or just think until you calm down. When you feel you can handle the situation in a mature manner, then go talk to your child in private.
If your child needs to be punished, do it in a way that does not include yelling or hitting. Try suspending television or other entertainment privileges. If they had an irate episode, you could supply them with a pencil and notebook and have them write, “I will not get angry and swear at my parents” one hundred times.
Set a Good Example
Lead by example. Once you have resolved your issues, it’s time to lead by example. A good parent does not do things that they don’t want their children to do. Children know your responsibility just as much as you do. Prove to them that you will hold up your end of the deal encouraging them to do the same thing. They will respect your efforts and reward you by mirroring your actions.
You are teaching your children how to handle real life situations by the example you set. Make sure those examples are upright and esteemed in society.
Maybe you didn’t have good role models when you were growing up and you had to struggle. Come to terms with it and always strive to do a better job than your parents did.
If you are a drug user or heavy drinker, right now is the time to stop. Get help if you need it. Join a 12 step program, or even put yourself in rehab. You probably won’t want to do this, but think about it thoroughly: You can’t possibly be a good parent if you are worrying about your next fix or planning your next drink.
Never forget that using drugs and alcohol will prevent you from thinking clearly about what your children need or want, so just don’t do it.
Don’t even try to hide drug or alcohol use. Even if you think you can hide it, this experience has shown you that you can’t.
Clean yourself up. Stop putting yourself first, and always think about your child’s needs before your own. This will, hopefully, provide a great future reward—when you look in the eyes of a mature and respectful child.
Reuniting the Family
Come together as a family. The ultimate goal of Child Protective Services is return the children to a family unit that is safe, vibrant, and loving. There may be multiple obstacles to overcome, but you can attain this ideal if you sincerely want to.
Understand and nurture your child’s mental, emotional, and educational well-being.
Attend to your child’s problems as they arise. Be aware of the impact that your actions have had on your kids. If CPS is involved, you can be sure your children will have some issues from their past treatment. They may not get over it easily on their own. As the parent, it’s your job to re-establish trust, no matter how long it takes.
Be honest with your children at all times. Show them the same respect that you’d expect them to show you. Nobody’s perfect, but your child will notice that things have changed for the better, and that will help with healing. If you mess up with your child, apologize to them and explain why you’re apologizing and how you wish you had handled the situation.
Children respect honesty and you should make sure they understand what’s going on, whether or not you make a mistake. Otherwise, your child will be hurt and confused.
Manage your time. Plan the things you need to do, such as caring for your children, planning meals, shopping, hygiene, household chores… etc.
Never be intoxicated while in the presence of your children, you’re in parenting mode around your kids and bringing intoxication into the mix is doomed for disaster.
Make sure you are always attending to the needs of your children.
You are the adult and you must act like one. Remember your role in the family is to be a good parent, not a bully.
Remember, the goal of the social worker is to reunite your family. It may feel like she’s an enemy who intruded into your personal life, but nothing is further from the truth. The well-being of your children is her number one concern. Work with her, not around her. She wants you to succeed.
If you are absolutely unable or unwilling to make the required changes, consider asking a family member if they’d be willing to have the kids live with them and give them guardianship and custody. Always do what’s best for your kids, even if that means they live and are raised somewhere else.
You must actually make these changes. Don’t just act the part to try and fool CPS. If you don’t actually resolve the underlying issues that caused you to neglect or abuse your children, it’s still a problem. Even if you get your kids back, these underlying problems will almost certainly result in you having to deal with CPS again later. You don’t want this to happen.
You cannot keep a relapse secret. Concerned family, friends, neighbours, school teachers, and others will know the children have been neglected or abused in the past and they will pay close attention to the kids.
Other people will notice if you go back to putting yourself ahead of your children and all it takes is for one of them to call CPS, and then they will once again step into your life.
Don’t try to hide drug or alcohol abuse, things are likely to get bad again and others will notice. Don’t put your family at risk.
Lack of self-control and temper tantrums are not acceptable adult behavior.
Sources and Citations
US Department of Health and Human Services
National Resource Center for In-Home Services
UK Social Services
New Zealand Child, Youth and Family Services
Australian Child Support Services