What Can I Do When the System Seems Unable to Protect My Child?
The system is imperfect, but don’t give up
- Sometimes those whose job it is to protect children simply don’t have enough information to proceed with a full investigation or set orders or mandates that will protect a child from harm. It can actually be extremely frustrating for CPS workers and police investigators when they are very concerned for a child but don’t have enough concrete information to move forward. Ask them what additional information might be helpful.
- The investigative process sometimes happens slowly. The slow pace doesn’t necessarily mean the authorities are not concerned. Often there is action being taken that can not be disclosed to family members who may call to ask about the status of an investigation. Some investigations can be prolonged and seem endless. Try to be patient and cooperate as best you can.
- In some cases you may feel that the professionals involved don’t have enough training or expertise to detect risk or trauma to a child. Advocate the best you can to include professionals who have familiarity and experience with the dynamics of child sexual abuse cases. If you believe there are evaluators, therapists, attorneys, Guardian ad Leitem, or others involved in your case who do not have familiarity with child sexual abuse cases, work with your attorney to make your concerns known.
- Although it may not seem like it at times, the people doing this work took these jobs because protecting children is important to them.
There are things you can do if you feel your case has been mishandled:
- It is infuriating to feel misunderstood when you are attempting to protect a child. Feeling powerless to do so can make you feel like giving up. Don’t give up hope. When you feel your case has been mishandled there are many resources and steps you can take to make your concerns known.
- If you have made every effort to resolve your concerns with the staff in your local agency, you may want to ask if the agency has an appeal procedure or an “ombudsman”. Many agencies have ombudsmen to help clients resolve complaints. The names of these offices vary and may include “Ombuds Specialist,” or the Child Welfare Complaints Office. Ask your agency how to contact them directly.
- If your child protection agency doesn’t have appeal procedures, you may decide to contact your State Liaison Officer (SLO) for child abuse and neglect. Each state has a designated State Liaison Officer (SLO) for child abuse and neglect. The SLO is responsible for ensuring that agencies comply with State laws and polices regarding issues such as how and when to investigate reports of child abuse, the prosecution of those who have sexually abused, and the resolution of child custody and visitation disputes. It is best to contact the SLO only after you have tried other ways of resolving the problem (like a Complaints Office). If you need to take your concerns to this level, contact information for your State’s SLO is available on the Child Welfare Information Gateway Link.
- If you are concerned about your legal rights in a child protection case, we recommend getting good legal advice. You may want to consult with and/or obtain the services of an attorney who practices in the area of family law in your state. If you need assistance in locating or paying for an attorney, the following resources can help: