Post by comingclean on Jun 2, 2008 19:53:30 GMT -5
Hello all. I have a question for you, so please respond HONESTLY.
I just got a job working with a company that does contract work for Child Protective Services in my state. My job will be to go into homes where the parents have either lost their children to CPS or are in danger of losing them, and help them to over come whatever it is that caused the problem that brought CPS in. I know there are a variety of reasons for losing your children, but I also know in this area a lot are because of the condition of their homes. So here's the question. If you were a parent who had lost your children or was in danger of losing them, what would be the best way to help you overcome the squalor? Would you be willing to get help by learning parenting skills and home management skills, or would you be resentful and hostile? Please be honest, I am trying to figure out what kind of "reception" i will get, and how best to try and help people cause that's what I really want to do. Thanks bunches.
Honestly? I'd be resentful and probably hostile, and mostly because of what you just said here, that your definition of "helping" would be assuming that someone with a messy house lacked parenting and household management skills. Not necessarily true, not remotely so.
I probably know more than you do about taking care of a home, and whatever other problems I have, I am an excellent mother. I do however, suffer from arthritis and fibro, a bad back and my husband has Asperger's syndrome, OCD and is a hoarder. I've also had intermittant bouts of depression and my family has survived THREE life-threatening diseases in the past four years, combined with rather serious financial problems as a result. My house is clean now and has been for several years, but the reasons for it being messy before had NOTHING to do with inadequate parenting or household management skills.
I wouldn't need or want to be forced to take parenting classes or be lectured on how often to empty my trash. If you really wanted to help, it would be not to make instant assumptions about me and who I am from the state of my house and instead find out WHY my house might not be as neat as other people's and what help I actually needed, not forcing on me what you assume I need.
For a start, you might try reading up on hoarding and OCD and learn why it isn't just a matter of "just clean it up" to people suffering from this disorder.
Post by comingclean on Jun 2, 2008 21:38:12 GMT -5
First of all thank you for answering honestly Margaret56. Second, I don't think my question came out quite the way I meant it. I have no doubt that you and many other people have far more knowledge than I do in the way of housekeeping. That being said, I also know that I have never had a "perfect" house. I am bipolar, not medicated due to lack of insurance - not by choice, I have 4 boys, and a disabled husband. I have lived in 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th degree squalor for more time than I care to think of. Right now I'd say my house is in 1-2 mostly. I know that housekeeping skills have nothing to do with parenting skills. Parenting skills are taught to people who need them. The same with housekeeping/home management skills. However, when CPS is brought in, for what ever reasons, and housekeeping is one of the reasons, it has to be dealt with. I want to be able to help people, because I have been there myself, not because I am on the outside looking in. I just wanted some other points of view so I could get a feel for what I will be met with, and what would be most helpful to do to help these families. I do want to stress that my job is to help KEEP these families together, not to find reasons to take the kids away. I couldn't do a job like that. I know there has been many times that my own mother has threatened to report me (even when my house was pretty clean) just to get "even" with me for something i did or didn't do to her (like not take her to the store when she wanted). I want to be able to help people in whatever way they need. whether it be referral to a group for peer to peer counseling (real life version of ss), help finding adequate housing if need be, or help finding ways to get repairs, etc. One thing I've noticed in this area (not sure if it is transferrable elsewhere) is that "poor" people (and I use that term broadly -- most are 3rd or 4th generation welfare recipients) seem to think that they don't deserve to live in well kept homes. Even the cleaner houses have had no attempts made to make them HOMES -- there are no pictures, decorations, etc. Like I said earlier, I live in a rural area where being "middle class" seems to be an unatainable thing for most families. And before anyone asks.... Yes, my family receives foodstamps, my kids get a medical card, and my husband is medically disabled. I do not want to remain on assistance forever, but I do understand that there are some people who cannot get off of assistance. If it wasn't for the job I am just starting we would not be able to get off of welfare due to the lack of jobs paying more than minimum wage. I hope I haven't offended anyone, I just wanted to put more information out there incase my first post was misunderstood because I know that it wasn't terribly clear. Again, Thank you Margret56 for the honest answer, I do appreciate it
Post by Mystic Pegasus on Jun 2, 2008 22:00:03 GMT -5
I think most people are initially going to be hostile towards you as they will see you as *one of the baddies*.
My advice would be to go in with the attitude of "Ok... I'm here to help you get your kids back/keep your kids! How can we make this happen?" If that is your intent, anyway.
Let them have input as to what they see the problem as and how they feel you can help them get back on track.
Unfortunately, it's not easy, even with the best help and intentions... even at the risk of losing their kids... for until the root cause of the problems are addressed, it will probably revert to it's prior condition. We all know how easy it is to backslide...
If it is simply a matter of physical disabilities or life happenings that allowed things to slide out of control, then once a clean home is obtained, maybe a weekly/fortnightly cleaning service (is there some kind of community organisation that can help with this for those on low incomes maybe?) might help maintain, plus drop ins by you, or maybe a church leader or someone else in their community if you think they'd feel more comfortable with that... just to see what ongoing help they may need and if they are dealing with things ok. Sometimes just not feeling alone and deserted can make a world of difference. Of course, for some this may feel more like ongoing interference, which is why it could be important to find the right person to do it who will be more acceptable to them.
If the squalor is related to psychological problems (OCD/compulsive hoarding etc) etc, then a counsellour might be needed to help them gain enough control of their lives in a good way, to let the control of their squalor go.
Many people in this situation do *know* what they should be doing to maintain their houses, but either can't (overwhelmed etc) or won't (their hoard/squalor has a purpose for them) do what is required. So they have the housekeeping skills, but don't use them. But some don't have these skills, as they may never have been taught them as a child for various reasons- eg. living in squalor themselves and nothing was ever cleaned, or alternatively had everything done for them by their mother. So, I think it's important to identify which situation applies... it's no use offering household skills to someone who already has them, but doesn't use them (they will benefit more by finding the right ongoing motivation tools).... but those who don't have them could certainly benefit.
Discussion with the family themselves, and involving them in the process of what will work best for them is important. Make them feel like they are taking control for getting their homes in order- and return of their children- not that you are in control and forcing things on them. Of course, they may choose to do nothing or not follow through, upon which you should clearly define the probable consequences of their inaction and try to encourage them to do something about it. Ultimately I guess, it's up to them- which way they want to go. It's sad and tragic, but sometimes people just aren't ready to pull themsleves out of their situation, even when the stakes are so high.
ComingClean, I apologize if I came off a little upset with your post. I did not recognize your user name, and as I have not been spending very much time with this community lately, it is hard to tell who is "one of us" and who isn't by post count alone because of our recent migration from the old SS board.
The fact that you have had experience with squalor puts a totally different light on your question. You see, there have been many people who have come to this community who know NOTHING of our struggles and have never had to deal with what we have had to deal with but come off with a "do-gooder" attitude that is frankly patronizing and insulting. I am sorry I mistook you for "one of those".
I think with your background you could be in a unique place to help those you come across who are dealing with these issues. At least you will know that it can happen to anyone, even someone who works for CPS. You may not be comfortable with this in a professional setting but I think you could help a lot if you told the people you are trying to help of your own struggles. I think most of us are so defensive and frightened of being judged unfairly for our situations that it would be a blessed relief to find someone who actually had been there, done that, knocking on the door instead of someone whose idea of a messy house is a newspaper on the couch and two dishes in the sink.
Post by comingclean on Jun 2, 2008 23:29:41 GMT -5
Well, in all honesty I am new... I never posted on the other site, just found it last week. I just assumed that everyone who joined/posted was either "mid squalor" or "on the wagon" so to speak. Not sure if i'll ever be totally "on the wagon".... i always feel like i just fell off of it and was run over, . Again, thanks for the Honest replies Mystic Pegasus and Margaret56. Keep them coming! I need all the help I can get.
Well, in all honesty I am new... I never posted on the other site, just found it last week. I just assumed that everyone who joined/posted was either "mid squalor" or "on the wagon" so to speak. Not sure if i'll ever be totally "on the wagon".... i always feel like i just fell off of it and was run over, .
Waving hello to comingclean:
I understand your wondering about where we all are at. I have written up something on a new thread that might help clarify things for you:
This is SUCH a big topic and such an important one. So hard to cover everything in just a few short words. That being said, i think the first thing is to realize many or even most of these people are feeling threatened and judged once CPS is called in. I think the first thing you have to do is make them feel like they can trust you and feel secure that you really do want to help them, which might take awhile. I know if it were me, I would be very suspicious even if a social worker were sincerely trying to make me comfortable and gain my trust, because I would suspect that they may be trying to gain my trust and get me to make confessions or just get general information from me that could be used against me. So I think the trust factor is very important and even more important that it not be breached after it is gained.
Secondly, i think the most important thing after gaining their trust is to listen to them. Instead of just going in and offering solutions, listen to the people. They may already know what the problems are and know what would help them resolve alot of the issues. As has already been mentioned, so many things can factor into squalor. Illness and disabilities, finances, support and resources, lack of knowledge or skills can all be major contributing factors. Listening to the people can help you find the ways to best help them. Hopefully, you will have ways and means to help them if they need assistance in the way of counseling if they have OCD, ADD, etc, people to help make household repairs, babysitting, or just someone to help take some of the workload off of them if they just have too much going on.
Lastly, i would highly recommend invited any families with this problem to this site. This is a safe haven and they are among friends here and can learn more about overcoming squalor/hoarding in a few days here as oppose to a life time of going it alone or even seeking counsel from friends, family, or even professionals who have no experience with squalor.
So that's my advice. I really hope you can help alot of people thru your new career. Good luck and come back often, not only for your clients, but for yourself. We can be alot of help and support to you too. Fivecat
"Once you have provided for food, clothing, and shelter, all else is excess."
Post by comingclean on Jun 3, 2008 14:06:24 GMT -5
Thanks CourageouslyLion_SeeksSerenity and Fivecat. I appreciate the welcome and all of the helpful information.
I was wondering, has anyone here dealt with CPS that they would be willing to share their experience? I know that it's not a pleasant thing....and don't feel bad if you don't want to share. I'm just looking for information such as..... "my worker was able to help me with 1, 2, and 3" or "my worker was such a jerk!, he never listened, etc." or "i wish my worker would have addressed x"
If I am asking questions that are not appropriate please tell me. Like I said before I am new, so I may be out of line. Please correct me if I am.
Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts/feelings on this with me. And a big WTG! for everyone who is working on digging their way out or maintaining..... (still digging here )
Oh..... and one last thing..... "I COULDA HAD A V-8" ROFL (couldn't resist that one)
Post by sunshineshouse on Jun 4, 2008 12:38:32 GMT -5
I admire your courage in taking on this job - I will be interested to see how you feel as you begin to encounter these families in need of assistance. I had a fortunately brief brush with CPS. I was reported by a vengeful Ex and fortunately someone tipped me off. I hired a woman to come in and help me clean - and do a lot of stash and dash. When CPS arrived, all the main living areas were clean (but don't look in the basement!). I do remember the FEAR that I had. It was totally freaking me out that my children could be taken away. The whole episode caused me to have anxiety issues.
Post by comingclean on Jun 4, 2008 14:15:28 GMT -5
Oh wow, sunshineshouse. I'm glad someone tipped you off so you had time to prepare. From what I understand they don't typically take the kids immediately unless there is a health/safety issue (kids in diapers for days at a time, no food in the house, etc.). From what i've heard so far, they usually give the parents/guardians a little time (say a week) to clean their houses if CPS feels it's not "clean enough". I've also heard from some that most of the reportings come from ex's and neighbors that get mad for some reason or another (like you parked on their petunias, ). I'm sorry that you were left with lasting anxiety issues. I hope things are going well for you now. When CPS came in did they just look around and leave? Or did they say "do this, this and this?" Thankfully, I've never dealt with CPS on that end (just been threatened with it) but I am curious how the clients are treated. Whatever happens, I don't want to turn into some unfeeling heartless bureaucrat. I'm glad that the company I work for is there to try and KEEP the families together, not tear them apart.
Post by sunshineshouse on Jun 4, 2008 16:01:09 GMT -5
Well, things looked really good by the time the CPS worker got there. I had about a week's lead time, as I remember, and my squalor was not THAT BAD at the time, so it really just needed bagging and stashing and general housecleaning (ah,those were the days.....). I remember I was really nervous they would check my garage or basement (which, again, weren't that bad), but some legal people I asked said that CPS was concerned with the living areas (not that I could be 100% sure they wouldn't ask to see other areas or just start opening doors... ::gulp::). The worker just came in and sat with me at the dining room table with his paperwork. He basically said right out that he was going to report the claim as unfounded. So that was a relief. He told me that someone would probably follow up in a week or so. About a week later, his supervisor came to my house. (Which meant that I was really keeping on top of the maintenance for that week.) She just came in the house briefly (I don't even think she walked around) and said it was a formality that she was there, and she was going to close the case. After that I had another visit from a county worker with regard to custody issues. The whole series of events really left me scarred (and scared). I think I cared about the house LESS after that. I think I acted out against all the scrutiny by letting my house get to a Level 3. Demand resistance and all that. I found the whole thing quite humiliating.
Post by comingclean on Jun 4, 2008 18:14:18 GMT -5
Susnshineshouse ~~~~ Wow. I do know what you mean about the resistance thing. It seems like anytime anyone tries to "force" me to do something then I do the total opposite. When DH goes on his "you need to keep house better" tirade then i quit doing EVERYTHING..... Let HIM figure out how to do it all, . I'm hoping that i'll actually be able to work with people to change whatever they need to change, not drive them over the edge in the opposite direction.
Post by troubledmom on Jun 5, 2008 14:03:10 GMT -5
My children were removed from my home for squalor issues after my 5th child was born and I was suffering from sever post partum depression. I received NO assistance from CPS at all in getting things fixed in my home. Just instructed to clean it up.
I did clean it up. I FILLED 2 20 yard dumpsters (which cost just under $300 each and CPS did NOT help pay for them), I spent hours upon hours muddling through my squalor trying to figure out what to do with it all. I hauled load after load of 'good' stuff to my local women's shelter, and through it all never got anything from CPS except to 'keep working' on it.
In fact at one point I called my social worker to ask her exactly what she expected my home to look like (remember 5 kids and numerious pets). Her response was "What part of clean don't you understand?" I was LIVID and yelled at her that I obviously didn't know enough since she still had my kids.
Having been there and done it the things I could tell you that I would want from someone would be CLEAR CONSISE DETAILED expectation of clean. Assistance with dumpster or dump fees, a way to transport 'give away' stuff if transportation is an issue. Someone to come in to work along side me to go through all the crap to get it cleaned up (sort of like a clean house team?) and then someone to help me organize what is left after the great clean up.
One of the things CPS seems to forget is that it didn't take a few days for the squalor to get there and it isn't going to be all cleaned up in a few days without a LOT of support people helping out and it isn't going to stay clean unless the cause of the squalor to begin with is adddressed. I have never met someone living in squalor who was living that way just because they were ***. It might be a medical reason, a mental health reason, a life crisis, lack of skills, or just plain overwhelmed and given up or any combination...
When CPS first came to my house, I was resentful and in denial about how bad things were. I think if the social worker had come to me and said here are services we can give you to help instead of just the 'clean it up' attitude I might not have been so hostile. Also if I had a different doctor treating the post partum~ for real he wrote a letter to the court saying that I was suffering from post partum depression but he didnt feel lthat interfered with my ability to keep my home clean. My attorney ripped the letter apart with COMMON sense but the social worker still refered to the letter until she was finally removed from my case after the what part of clean comment she made and I went all the way to my state senator for help.
Post by comingclean on Jun 5, 2008 14:56:53 GMT -5
Troubledmom~~~~ All I can say is WOW.... and here's a big for all you went through. I am hoping that you do have your children back now (i got the impression you did in the post) and that you are no longer under that "threat".
I do agree that CPS does pretty much nothing. The company that I work for seems to be a rarity. They go in when there's a court order from CPS and help the parents/kids (different people work with the kids than those who work with the parents) with whatever issues the court addressed. I do not know think that we can directly pay for anything like trash removal, etc. (but boy would it be great if we could) just provide the supportive services...... like teach whatever needs to be taught (whether it's food safety, cleaning, money management, stress management, etc.), show them where to go for various community support (food banks, help with bills, etc), help them get their family to be more supportive, etc. The idea is to help the parents become self sufficient so that IF they need something again they can take care of it before it gets so bad that CPS gets involved again. So far they only operate in a few counties in this state but I believe they are expanding to try and cover the entire state. I hope that eventually every state will have a company like this because no one should be treated the way you were.
Big hugs and thanks for the information Troubledmom