I’ve worked with families in crisis for 16 years. I truly love what I do, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. My experience with the Department of Children and Families had the most profound impact on my life.
I had no idea what to expect when I started as a Child Protective Investigator. I knew I would be keeping children safe from abuse and neglect, but what about their parents? Being a parent myself, I couldn’t help but wonder what could possibly bring a parent to the point of needing DCF intervention. Don’t get me wrong, I watched the news. I knew there was evil in the world. But nothing could have prepared me for the first few weeks of training, just watching the number of calls that came in. There were so many.
I knew in my heart that not every call involved a parent who was intentionally abusing or neglecting their children. Still, I wondered why there were so many families that truly required Department involvement. As I started shadowing other investigators, it became clear to me.
A majority of the calls were simply parents in crisis. There were a multitude of reasons: domestic violence, untreated mental illness, self-medicating with substances, poverty, lack of education. They wanted to be good parents and productive members of society—they simply didn’t have the means to do so and didn’t know how.
I did my best to address the core issues within each family. I wanted to help them get to where they wanted and deserved to be. Every parent I met with knew why I was there. But I treated them with the dignity and respect needed to feel safe enough to share their stories. When I did that, each family had a chance to grow and make real changes.
Some of the most tragic cases I had were due to the family being isolated with no positive support system in the area. I had a mom whose appendix ruptured while she was at home with her two young children. It was at least 48 hours before anyone found her. The house was in disarray, the children were dirty with soiled diapers, and there was food all over the floor. Mom was rushed to the hospital and almost died. She was alone with no family in the area. I had no choice but to shelter her children.
I had a mom fleeing from a domestic violence relationship. The father of her two young children had come back to the home in the middle of the night, broke down her door, and beat her in front of her children. Again, mom had no one local to help her. The shelters were full. No matter how much mom wanted to protect her children, she couldn’t. Mom couldn’t protect herself. I had no choice but to shelter her children.
These situations are way too common. If you have never experienced truly being alone with no one to reach out to for help, you have no idea how terrifying it can be. Parents need positive people in their lives for guidance and support. Parenting alone is a challenge, but add poverty, mental illness, domestic violence, substance abuse, and more to the mix—it can turn into a frightening and dangerous situation most people can’t get out of alone.
It’s important for us as a community to support these families in need. To help them make meaningful changes in their lives. To be there for them when they don’t think they can keep going. A simple “I’m here for you” can make all the difference.