When a teacher sees a child who doesn’t have a winter coat that fits, or a doctor realizes that a child they’re seeing for a Wellchild check up is clearly hungry, what do they do? In most cases, they call the CPS hotline and report suspected neglect. But is that what they should be doing? Not really. Not if they’re actually hoping to help that child get what they need.
Why? Because a child whose hungry as a result of poverty doesn’t need their parents to be investigated by CPS. What they really need is someone to connect their mom or dad with the local food bank. And a child whose family can’t afford a new coat in winter doesn’t need to be accused of neglect. What they really need is to be connected with a local organization that’ll help ensure that their kids are warmly dressed on cold days.
Being poor doesn’t mean neglectful parenting.
Poverty is a problem for many American families. And even families who are considered to be above the federal poverty line, where struggling parents work two jobs just to make ends meet, are not immune from the struggle. But having a hard time paying all your bills doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent. And it definitely doesn’t mean you’re neglectful! Too many parents facing financial hardship have been labeled neglectful by the state, and the results are often made worse by CPS, as opposed to better.
CPS workers may show up to investigate an abuse or neglect claim with the best of intentions, but the impact on that family, especially if they’ve done nothing wrong, can be terrible. For example:
- They lose standing in their community, and their neighbors suspect them of abuse, simply because CPS was seen arriving at their home
- They now have a “file”, which means there is a record that their family has a “history” with CPS, which can look very bad if there are ever issues down the road
- The agency may mistake poverty for neglect, and the parents, who are already stretched thin, may be required to participate in unneeded parenting classes
- The trauma of being investigated by CPS adds stress to an already challenged family, adding tension to the home, and frightening children unnecessarily .
Punishing parents instead of addressing root causes makes matters worse
Parents who have had interactions with CPS live with the constant fear and anxiety that they will lose their kids. That the state could show up at any time, criticize their parenting efforts, and put their children into foster care. Children who have been taken from their parents by CPS, even if it was only for a short while, live with the anger and fear that comes from being taken from their caregivers and left with strangers. They feel helpless and abandoned and misunderstood. And these feelings affect every part of their lives, and the ways they interact with one another, and with people in authority.
Join us next time, as we look at a new series of stories put together by the Rise & Shine Program out of New York, documenting the impact CPS has had on the lives of the poor and marginalized in that city. Until then, if CPS shows up at your house making accusations about your parenting choices, call The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245 today. Our skilled CPS defense attorneys are standing by to help you protect your family and your parenting rights!