My Public Hearing Testimony About OCS

 Representative Tammie Wilson from North Pole held OCS Public Testimony Hearings at multiple locations around the state, after a grand jury declined to investigate and turned over their findings to the Citizen’s Review Panel and the Ombudsman’s Office. The hearings were opportunities for those “not satisfied with the current state of the Office of Children’s Services”.  Rep. Wilson has accused OCS of “legal kidnapping”.

As CPS workers, we are either accused of stepping on parents’ rights and kidnapping children who are perfectly safe or we don’t do nearly enough and leave children in grave danger in their homes. I decided to attend the hearing and below is what I said. I hoped it would be an encouragement to my fellow workers and a motivator to get the services that will actually help Alaska to be a safer state for children. Below is what I said:

My name is Jessica Veldstra and I am speaking as a private citizen. The opinions below are mine alone and do not represent  the viewpoint of the Office of Children’s Services.

 

Hug Your Local CPS Worker


I have a confession to make. Yesterday, I came home after working incredibly hard at my job with the local Child Protection Services, saw several different versions of the above post, and cried  for a half an hour.

Usually I don’t let my job get to me, but it was the perfect storm. I had a very taxing day with a huge amount of work I needed to complete and was emotionally vulnerable due to a particularly nasty abuse case that had caused a lot of the work.  Having my friends bash CPS workers online was the last straw.

As someone who works as support staff for CPS, I often read local media stories or complaints that only post the negative about CPS workers and leave out most of the story. Because of privacy laws, we can’t stand up for ourselves and state what really happened. CPS is vilified as either doing nothing when children are in danger or being “baby snatchers” who take children for no reason. Recently, someone on Kenai Craiglist suggested that the next mass shooter should target the local OCS and someone else said that the workers “sit on their fat asses” instead of protecting children.

The truth is that I have had jobs in the private and non-profit sector and my CPS job is quadruple the amount of work of any of my previous jobs and I am not even a case worker. To give you an idea, as a support staff member, I am receiving about 100 emails per day, most of which have some task for me to complete. That is just the emails. It doesn’t include the meetings, visits, paperwork, data entry, and phone calls.  If it was just the amount of work it would be difficult, but the emotional toll of working with abused and neglected children sometimes freezes me in my efficiency.

No sane person would keep a CPS job unless they cared about the work. Someone has to make sure our most vulnerable citizens are safe. CPS workers do this by working with families.  With the vast majority of reports of abuse that are substantiated, workers put into place services (substance abuse and mental health assessments, transportation, housing, domestic violence education, referrals to the food bank, public assistance, and local charities) to prevent future abuse or neglect. In the extremely rare case that a child has to be removed because of safety reasons, the worker’s first priority is to return the child home.

There is a reason CPS workers only stay an average of 18 months on the job. The amount of work is staggering, the emotional toll of working face to face with both abused and neglected children and parents with substance abuse and mental health issues, topped with the hatred of the community is just too much for most people. It is true that there are bad decisions made by CPS workers, but experience prevents those. By supporting CPS workers, you are actually supporting better work by encouraging workers stay in their job.

The next time you run into a CPS worker, tell them that you appreciate the hard work they do to keep the children of your community safe. Trust me, it may be the first time they have heard it.

*All opinions are purely my own and in no way reflect the opinions of my employer.