My childhood was tough.
My mother died when I was young. My father struggled with substance misuse. Substance misuse led to neglect. Neglect was compounded by abuse. And abuse led to me experiencing out-of-home care. It is an experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
It was a child protective services (CPS) professional who stepped in to help. At age seven, I didn’t fully recognize or appreciate the impact of CPS. I surmise that is true for many who have interactions with CPS. But I now know and fully understand the impact of that interaction.
That CPS worker saved my life.
The work of CPS is unheralded, misunderstood, and underappreciated. They are tasked with doing an impossible job. They respond to allegations that most of us couldn’t fathom. Neglect. Physical Abuse. Sexual Abuse. And yes – child fatalities. When societal efforts to ensure the wellbeing of children fall apart, we (literally) call CPS workers to pick up the pieces.
Let me be clear, there is always room for improving child protection systems. When an entity, such as CPS, is tasked with allaying and/or assuaging every instance of child maltreatment, veritably, things will go wrong. Without question, we should all work to ensure that children and families receive the best, most innovative services available. Period. And we should also ensure that we support those tasked with delivering that service.
July 7th is Child Protection Professionals Day.
It is a day to reflect on what has been and envision what could be. But most importantly, it is a time to honor and celebrate CPS workers.
Today, as was the case yesterday, and as will be the case tomorrow, a CPS worker will step in to save the life of a young person. The work is not ideal. The work is never perfect. And frankly, it is almost always messy. But – make no mistake – that work is certainly necessary.
I choose to celebrate Child Protection Professionals Day not because the system is perfect – but because I know the alternative. If not for CPS, I wouldn’t be writing this today.
So, to all those working to protect young people: THANK YOU.