Criminal Justice Leadership

The field of criminal justice is filled with many job opportunities.   Each job position contains a specific guideline for upholding the law.  These jobs vary from that of a law enforcement officer, probation officer, parole officer, and even include positions of counselors, correctional officers, prison wardens, and child protective services workers.  The role of a child protective services worker is unique in that it is a state appointed position, but it also carries with it a guaranteed immunity.  This simply means that no individual in this position can be held liable in a court proceeding for erroneous case work.  Child Protective Service Workers (CPS) is a separate division which operates within the criminal justice system that maintains as much power as the courts, but it is not mandated like law enforcement to carry out its decisions against any offender.

The CPS government agency was established in 1912 in answer to the many parentless children roaming the streets in search of shelter, clothing, and food (Drake  Jonson-Reid, 2007).  Out of this new agency emerged the job position of child protective service worker.  The worker was designated to investigate allegations of child abuse andor neglect.  The issue of child sexual abuse was not addressed until much later in the 1960s.  The CPS worker is a state worker who is bound by the courts to establish absolute proof of child abuse and neglect.  This requires the CPS worker to testify to such matters in a court of law.  Most often, this testimony is given against a parent or caretaker of the child in question.  As time has progressed, so has the duties and responsibilities of a CPS worker.  The caseload of a CPS worker is to be no more than 10-14 cases per worker, but in reality the CPS worker carries a load of about 41-60 cases per worker (personal communication, February 2004).  It is not uncommon for a CPS worker to erroneously identify the facts of one case with another case.  This heinous practice is viewed by the agency as an honest mistake.
CPS workers are still required to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect, but in todays society, the worker is also mandated to investigate allegations of sexual abuse.  Strict protocol must be adhered to in order for the department to gain a guaranteed prosecution of the perpetrator.  Now the CPS worker is faced with the demand from society to set forth before the court the proper evidence of the alleged abuse, but also act as a liaison between the trial court and the parent or caretaker.  This in many cases gives the CPS worker the image of not being truthful and forthright to one side or the other.  In the meantime, if proof is not substantiated, it creates a level of animosity from not only the court for having wasted its time, but also from the parent or caretaker for ripping their family apart and slandering their name within the community without cause.

Timothy Vickers, former CPS worker in West Virginia, stated that being a child protective services worker is one of the most demanding and difficult jobs he had ever encountered (personal communication, February 2004).  As a result of the work load and pressure from within the agency to find reason to remove a child from the home, the turnover rate was abnormally high.  Unfortunately, the burden of proof always lies with the CPS worker rather than the prosecution.  The prosecution relies heavily on the information provided from the CPS division.  In all reality, the CPS department is a critical and pivotal position within the criminal justice system.
Children of all ages deserve to have as happy of a childhood as possible.  Steps have been taken through agencies like CPS to advocate for fair treatment and a safe environment in which a child can grow and thrive.  Circumstances preventing a child from a loving and nurturing environment are numerous.  The stigma attached to CPS has prevented many parents from stepping forward and asking for help.  Communication is often established through an investigation started by a worker.

The CPS worker is mandated to inform the parent or caretaker the nature of the investigation and the allegations made in order to open the proper line of questioning.  General observations of the living conditions in the home are also dually noted during the investigatory process.  CPS workers look for an adequate food supply, running water, toys for the child, and clean clothing.  The workers are also charged with the duty of looking for garbage and waste, animal fecal matter, unwashed dishes, mold, and smells in the home which would indicate an unsafe living environment.
In cases alleging sexual abuse of a child, the investigation is entirely different.  If the alleged complaint is lodged with the agency through a mandated reporter such as a school counselor, family physician, clergy member, or law enforcement officer, the CPS worker may immediately file with the court an order for immediate and emergency removal of the child from the home simply based on the allegation alone.  The parent or caretaker is not afforded the opportunity of questioning or an in-home investigation until the child is properly placed in a foster home or group home.  This practice in some ways violates the Fourth Amendment Rights of not only the parents, but of the child as well.  Communication and contact between the parent and the child is immediately prohibited for the fear of the parent or caretaker brainwashing the child into recanting any statements made to the department.  Most incidents revolving around alleged sexual abuse end in the termination of the parent or caretakers rights.  In cases involving abuse and neglect, the family is often reunited, but with severe psychological damage to the family dynamic.  CPS workers are not required to admit to any wrongdoing, but rather they hide behind the faade of simply doing their job.

The criminal justice system is a unique and orchestrated structure founded on truth and justice.  Separate state and federal agencies, such as CPS, do not have to adhere to the strict rules and regulations that most other court officers and criminal justice appointees are bound by.  Families are too often separated and scrutinized by CPS workers who do not even hold the proper education to determine physical or psychological dysfunction in either an adult or a child.  The CPS division claims to function in the best interest of the child, but in reality their only function is to divide and conquer.  Not every job within the criminal justice system is one of integrity.  CPS workers quickly learn that their job description and duties are not what they had originally thought.  Some CPS workers find that their conscious will not permit them to continue advocating and tolerating such a miscarriage of justice.  Universities and colleges may find an influx of former social work students transferring their major into a more legitimate and founded form of supporting the criminal justice system of real truth.  CPS is a much argued thorn in the criminal justice system, but as congressman and wrongly accused parents and caretakers band together, it is an agency that will one day be a thing of the past.  Until then, the CPS worker and their agency will continue to fight for what they feel is their job in criminal justice system.


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