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The system is at least as likely to harass innocent parents and unnecessarily place children in a damaging foster-care system as it is to protect abused children. (Dr. Farber)

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CPS Comes Calling

by: Annette M. Hall

Do you know what to do when that knock comes to your door and you are standing face to face with a child protection worker?

My best friend, Heather recently had an experience she won't soon forget. She and her son were busy one afternoon, working on his studies when a knock came at the door.

This had become a familiar scenario for them because of a series of false allegations made against them by her ex-huband, who seems to have a great deal of time on his hands and nothing better to do.

The door bell rang and both their hearts skipped a beat when the response came to her inquiry...

Who's there?

She heard those dreaded words from the other side of the door, "CPS".

They prepared themselves post haste. They had the drill down pat. As Heather grabbed her handy tape recorder, her 12-year-old son was ready to unbutton his shirt for the worker. He wanted to be sure the worker could see that he had no marks on his body.

He knew the routine and had been through this too many times before. The child had actually endured a 12-hour interrogation session by CPS investigators, refused food, strip searched and locked up like a common criminal. He wasn't taking any chances with his freedom this day.

As Heather stoically gathered her pen and paper and tried to calm her frazzled nerves, she steadied herself and opened the door, prepared for the worst.

Standing in her doorway was a man holding a notebook and pen, looking rather intimidating - she was ready for anything and wasn't going to back down easily.

You can imagine her surprise when the shocked man said with a shaky voice, "I have a package for you." He stood there looking as though he might dart at any second.

As it would happen, her "CPS investigator" turned out, much to her relief, to be the UPS man, trying to deliver a package for the family. The look on the UPS mans face was priceless.

As she told her story to me tonight, we had a great laugh.

After all it was funny... but in reality, it's no laughing matter. The torment and fear that can come from a simple telephone call is not a humourous matter. You see, anyone can turn your life upside-down with just one telephone call of suspected abuse. It happens every day in this country.

It is a parents responsibility to protect their children and most parents take that sacred obligation very seriously but how does one protect against this kind of terrorism? How do you protect a child's innocence, when a false allegation can bring intense questioning about sensitive subject matters most children have no knowledge of, or shouldn't have any knowledge of at a tender age.

I find it profusely upsetting that children are being used as pawns in a dangerous game and they are coming out the losers. A child can never get back what is being stolen from him or her... their innocence, their childhood. It's gone forever. Is it any wonder children today are angry and lashing out?

I fear for Heathers family and the many others who, through no fault of their own, have been encompassed and consumed by this growing dread of a simple knock at the door. Just what the lasting effects of living in constant fear will have on her children, remains to be seen. The most fretful part of this situation, is that no matter what the results, it will be Heather who must deal with the fall-out, not those who have turned her life upside-down.

She alone will be left to comfort her confused and angry children. She will have the difficult task of making them feel safe and secure in their own home again. It's a tall order for any parent, one that may well be impossible.

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Updated June 10, 2007