Again I cry

10 Nov

Another child slain. Another troubled mother.

Again, a system that doesn’t work for either.

Investigators said she had lost custody of the baby in July because of her mental health but was given an unsupervised visit last month. Police said the baby died less than two hours after the social worker with child welfare services dropped the boy off at 10 a.m.

And yet it’s the mother charged with homicide. I cry foul. FOUL! Why leave her alone? You take custody away because she’s incapable of caring for the child due to her mental health, but leaving her alone with him for a visit is ok?

Justice for this mother. Justice for this child. How do we fix the system instead of spending our time crying for it’s victims?

6 Responses to “Again I cry”

  1. Worker November 10, 2007 at 10:19 am #

    Will, I suppose she is charged with murder because she killed the baby. No one else did. She may well get off because of her mental health and the circumstances, but she still killed the baby. If you kill someone, you are charged with murder.

    I cannot speak to why she got unsupervised access, but as a CW worker myself, I can say it was very likely ordered by the court. No CW worker wants to leave a child they have removed from a parent (especially a young baby) with the parent fo a second.

    Believe me, that worker is suffering. She will most likely never work again, whether or not she is held responsible. She could also still be charged. Those kinds of “additional” charges usually take longer to lay than against the actual perpatrator. There will most likely be an inquest. And she will be blamed. For the rest of her life, she will be the one who is considered a killer of a baby. Even though those kind of decisions are never made by the worker on their own, and to leave a baby for a visit with a mom he was removed from was probably a decision involving several people (most of them above the worker) including the mother’s doctors or a order from the court.

    If the article had been about a woman who lost her child due to mental health, and then was not allowed unsupervised visits even though she was getting treatment, had been stable for months, her supervised visits were going wonderfully, and her psychiatrist was saying she was stable and capable, what would you be saying? Most likely you would be angry that the social workers were biased against those suffering mental helth problems even if they were geting the treatment they needed and were now doing well.

    Lots of parents (or people that are not parents) that cannot care for their kids full time are still capable or short visits, supervised or not. Caring for a child 24 hours a day, day in and day out, and for 2 hours once a week or once a mnoth are very different things, wouldn’t you say? A 13 year old cannot parent a child full-time, but often is more than capable of baby-sitting , unsupervised, for several housrs.

    I would say the article is quite vague at this point. I have been privy to the “true” stories about many of these sensationalist cases where the CPS leaves a child to die. The information that is shared with the public is usually extremely limited, and everyone (the public and media) are quick to blame the evil child services workers.

    p.s. of course you know who I am thor, but please don’t name me if you respond. I do not talk about work online often.

  2. thordora November 10, 2007 at 2:04 pm #

    Being stable for months and having no unsupervised visits, and being given what appears to be a sudden unsupervised visit are two completely different things.

    The SYSTEM has to change. IF indeed the court ordered the visit, then that has to be looked at. She lost custody. If she isn’t competent enough to have custody, I have trouble believing she’s at a point where she can be alone with a child.

    And frankly, after some of the stories from places like Florida that refer to how much social services have fucked shit up for kids, I have almost zero faith in these systems. They certainly don’t seem to be advocates for those who are ill, or those around them.

  3. palofmine November 10, 2007 at 2:33 pm #

    They just dont care do they? It is pathedic how the system just doesnt work for the kdis anymore!

  4. Worker November 10, 2007 at 2:34 pm #

    Being stable for months and having no unsupervised visits, and being given what appears to be a sudden unsupervised visit are two completely different things.

    But where does it say that she was suddenly given an unsupervised visit? If she was stable (or presented as such) or not? I’m not saying Child Welfare didn’t mess up…I just don’t think this story tells us enough to say one way or another, and as a Child Welfare worker I am sick and tired of always being assumed to be the one at fault (I would assume much like as a mother with MH issues, you are) from a couple lines in a news paper. I work with kids whose parents have lost permanent custody of them. Some of the parents are more than capable of havng successful visits for a few hours or even over weekends, even if they are not capable of full-time parenting. People are capable of change. And as you are ware, with the right medication and support, people with MH issues can turn aroundquite quickly.

    That said, my kids are older, and I really think you would be very hard pressed to find a Child Welfare Worker that would allow a 5 month old an unsupervised visit without being forced to by the courts, etc. We are very aware of how very vulnerable infants are, and how very unstable mental health can bem, especially when combined with post-partum issues. There is way more to the story than one paragraph can tell us. There are likely hundreds of pages of case notes, court documents, parenting and child assessments, doctor’s reports, supervision notes, case conference reports, visit observations, etc…etc… that one would need to sift through to get the whole story. The newspapers will never have access to all that information.

    As I stated, I have had extensive training and literally gone through, peice by piece, every step of some of those cases that end up in the papers. There is always way, way more to the situation that the newspapers are aware of or report, and if the public knew what I did, the perception of Child Welfare would be far different.

  5. thordora November 10, 2007 at 5:34 pm #

    I also think that CW in Canada is a step up from the states in many jurisdictions. Of course the full story isn’t here-but the END of the story is a dead child.

    I’m not going to apologize for having more exacting expectations of the people who work with kids.

    Everyone is always VERY quick to place all of the blame on the mother when this stuff happens-and when the fingers are pointed in the other direction, there are always excuses. I know what you’re saying. But the burden of responsibility should end with the people we pay to help protect the children, even if it means protecting them from their own parents.

    I’ll be following the story if I can-most of the time charging the mother seems to be enough for most people.

  6. Worker November 11, 2007 at 12:37 am #

    Everyone is always VERY quick to place all of the blame on the mother when this stuff happens-and when the fingers are pointed in the other direction, there are always excuses. I know what you’re saying. But the burden of responsibility should end with the people we pay to help protect the children, even if it means protecting them from their own parents.

    Of course it means that, we all know that we are paid to protect childnrenot even from their own parents, but usually from their own parents. No one in CW is hesitant of protecting a child from their parents. In almost every case, that is who were are protecting them from, and we are well aware of what parents can do to their own kids.

    I’ll be following the story if I can-most of the time charging the mother seems to be enough for most people.

    Maybe in the US. In Canada, the media and public are very quick to blame the CPS, and workers have been charged.

    I’m not going to apologize for having more exacting expectations of the people who work with kids.

    Don’t apologize, feel how you want. However, I think it is important to remember that the people working with kids are just that, people. Working with people. It is not math or chemistry where there is a definate wrong and a definate right, and there are many more influences involved besides the worker and the family (which is so complicated as it is). With people, there simply are no definates.

    I have given so much to this work. I have been out until 3am trying to decide if a child was safe or not, or to ensure that they are…many times. I have spent more nights than you can imnagine awake all night, worrying if I made the right decision to remove a child, or leave them, and what I will find on my voice mail when I get in the next day (or check it over anfd over all night long). I am not unique. Most (pretty well all ) CW workers I know, both IRL and online (yes, I know workers from the US, both online and from training and conferences), would do anything, anything to do the job the very best they can.

    Unfortunately when you are a human, dealing with humans, and all the variables involving humans (because really Thor, you yourself have sounded like several people-or versions of yourself- this week alone) mistakes are simply unavoidable. And we live with that reality every day, knowing that if we make one, a child’s life could end, and it will be, at some level, our fault, even if we did our absolute best and could not have (maybe legally, maybe within reason) done differently. There are no decisions we make lightly or easily, none. If you think we are not doing well enough, fine. Do something about it other than bitching about it here based on a few lines in a newspaper article. Perhaps you would like to do it yourself for a few weeks, months or years? Perhaps you’d like to volunteer at a local CPS? You can supervise visits and see for yourself just what parents that have lost their kids, are or are not, are like. I would suggest you try knocking on people’s doors and trying to tel; them they have been accused of child abuse, and then tryng to determine whether or not their kids are safe and whether or not they should be removed from the family. Keep in mind that if you are wrong, the child may die. Keep in mind that if you are wrong, you may have severaly traumatized a child and family by removing a child who did not have to be removed. Keep in mind that if you are wrong, you may be sued, or open to criminal charges. Try it, see how it feels. Make that decision 4 or 5 times a week, every week. Of course, that decision is just the first of many in the life of a case, but start there and see if you can do the right thing every single time with no doubts…and then convince your superivsor and the judge everytime that you were right.

    I am not a martyr, I love my work and do it for a reason. But I give a lot to my work, too often I give more to it than to my own family, because the people I work with have so much less, and I know my daughter is safe at home even when I am not there. I also know that I could one day be the worker inthe paper. No matter how hard I try, how much I learn, and how good I am. I may make a mistake about a person, and a child may die. I may be forced to go against my better judgment in a decision, and a child may die. I may do my absolute best and work until 3 am for weeks on a case, and the child may still die. Then I will be reading about myself here.

    Everyone hears and complains about the few stories like this a year. But none of them know how many families are seen by Child Welfare agancies where mistakes are not made, and kids are fine and safe, because of us. I myself (when I was in investigations) saw 3-5 new families a week, minimum. In 6 years of that, I never lost a child, and dont think I ever left a child in danger or removed a child without reasonable grounds. 99% of my co-workers (not mine perosnally, bt CW workers in geenral) could probably say the same. That is a vast, vast majority of cases where things turn out well and the kids are safe. Sure, 1 mistake is too many. But as stated, when you are dealing with people working with people, it just cannot always be avoided. Maybe in this situation it could have, maybe not. That article certainly is not enough to have determined that. If, for example, that child was in 6 months custody, 5 of them had ended, mom was stable and the judge was ordering hme visits to prepare for reunification, the worker could not really have done differently, could she have? And if the mother wasp resenting well, had followed through with all her treatment as well as parenting programs and supervised visits, and her doctor was saying the child should be returened and shen had a good lawyer, the Judge could not really have done differenly either, now could he have? I am not saying this is what happened, but it very well could be. I’ve seen in pelnty of times. I have not seen the child die, but I have seen that mom was tricking everyone, and the child ended up back in care a few days later. I have seen many people who suffer from mental health issues act compliant and trick everyone, even doctors, into beleiving they are stable when they are not. I have seen my own brother do so.

    As for the lost custody you keep referring to, it is important to understand that unless the baby was up for adoption (which she would have had to agree to for it to happen so early on, and in which case there would be no access visits, certinaly not at home, so it is unlikely that this was the case) the child may have been in CW custody, but it would not have been permanent custody. It is usually at least a year in care before a CW agency even starts to go to court to seek permanent custody. The fact that this baby was in care by no means implies that this baby was never to return and mother was deemed forever incapable of parenting.

    Sorry if I am being verbose or stubborn, but I have given too much of my life, and worked too hard at what I do, to silently let child welfare workers be blamed every time a perent kills thier child, especially without the details even being known.

    Unfortunately, due to confidentiality and the spin the papers will put on the story (either against the mom or against the CW, depending on the paper, the reporter, and public opinion) we will never really know what happened or how. But from my expereinces, I can say with a lot of certainty that a worker did not simply one day decide it would be a good idea to leave a 5 month old baby alone with a mentally unstable mother she had deemed incapable of parenting just to see what would happen. It just does not happen that way. Ever. I would guess this worker, for whatever reaosn the diecison was made, struggled with it for some time and (if she was not forced by the courts to give the visit) truly beleived, with good reason, that the baby would be safe. She may have been wrong, but she probably could not have done better. I don’t beleive any CW worker would rashly give a 5 month old baby an unsupervised visit with a mentally uintable mother. We are all well, well aware of what is at risk in such a situation. Young babies with mothers who have serious mental health issues are the scariest, and most serious, calls we get.

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