Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Getting "Support" from Child Protective Services

There are two kinds of social workers in hospitals. One (the majority) works tremendously hard: trying to find housing for homeless patients; counseling;  helping families find resources; and so on. These kind wear comfortable shoes. Usually runners.

The other kind (very rare) does the bare minimum, and looks to avoid responsibility and liability for anything. This kind wears high heels or dress shoes.

So my wife and I were sitting in the ER. After seeing a triage nurse and psych residents, I cringed when I heard a click-click-click of high heels headed towards us.

The social worker looked like she was headed out to a party, and the whole hospital was just an inconvenience. Her lipsticked mouth said, "Hello, my name is Jess. Let's see how we can help you today," but her heavily lined eyes said "I'm bored and couldn't give a shit about you and your problems."

She briefly took notes and looked at the chart. "Hmmm...it looks like your family could probably use some support." Then she clicked away.

I think "support" is social worker code for calling child protection. Sure enough, we were informed by a nurse that the Ministry of Children and Family Development (the child protection agency where I live) had been called and had opened a file, and would be investigating to make sure our children were safe from the perils of mental illness.

It is a terrible stereotype that mentally ill people are dangerous. In fact, people with a mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. Yet of course in the media we only hear about those rare instances of psychosis becoming severely dangerous. Compared to the number of violent crimes committed by the sane, I would rather hang out with the mentally ill anytime.

The ER doc and psychiatrist both rolled their eyes when they heard that my family had been reported.

This is how the investigation went down:

Ministry Social Worker: "We are pleased to be working with you. I would appreciate you sharing the details with me. We like it better that way. Of course, by law we can just go and get your medical records, but it is so much nicer to have you cooperate. It gives you a feeling of control over your situation. Then we can offer you support."

I tell her the details. She says "That doesn't sound too bad. Your children are safe and well-cared for. That's great."

Me: "So, the file will be closed?"

Social Worker: "No, we will keep it open so we can get you support if you need it."

Me: "What kind of support can I get?"

Social Worker: "We can offer respite care for your children, and programs for them."

Me: "That's fantastic! What do I have to do to get access to that?"

Social Worker: "We have to show that your children are in imminent danger."

Me: "Which they're not."

Social Worker: "No, they're not. So, we will just have to see how it goes."

Turns out, in order to have the file closed, we need a letter from a psychiatrist saying that we will never be a risk to our children.

No pschiatrist will write such a letter, due to liability risks. The file remains open to this day.

So, here I am, a librarian who works with children, being investigated by the MCFD. I informed my manager right away, and she was very understanding.

But I can't help feeling badly for all of the children who are hungry, abused and neglected who aren't getting any help because my family is taking up a spot in the backlog of cases.

Simply because of a stereotype.

No comments: