Monday, March 19, 2012

Changes could be coming to Child Protective Services

Families dealing with child neglect and abuse often go through lengthy and emotional struggles when dealing with Child Protective Services.

But, the question remains: Should CPS be able to take children away at their own discretion, without a court order?

Changes could be coming as a review of CPS practices is underway.

Police have to get a warrant if they want to search your house. Detectives have to get a court order to seize your property. But, in Kern County, Child Protective Services does not seek court orders or warrants when removing children from their parents.

It can be a tough line to walk. In one case, a child was taken from their parents and a later investigation found no abuse. That sparked a lawsuit against the county.

On the flip side, there was another recent case where CPS didn’t act on a report of abuse and the child was subsequently killed.

“The problem I have with CPS is, frequently they overstate their power and authority.” said Bill Slocumb, a local attorney.

And, many people have no clue what is and isn’t allowed when they have to deal with CPS, so parents just go along with what social workers say, trying to save their families.

But, there could be changes in how CPS operates.

“The whole idea of reviewing our current procedures and policies is to determine whether we do need to make any changes, and that’s what’s going on right now. And, in following that review, if we determine we need to make changes, different forms or different processes, then that would be put into place,” said Mark Nations, Deputy Kern County Counsel.

If CPS social workers get a report of abuse, they must act on it and investigate. One of their worst fears is leaving a child in an abusive situation.

“Social workers are very concerned about that type of situation, where you leave a child in the home and something worse happens down the road. And, that is one of the issues we are addressing as we review these policies,” added Nations.