I am very perplexed over something that just came to my attention. I’ve
written on Child Protective Services issues a couple of times in the past,
and I have some experience moderating a forum online regarding the
public’s interaction with CPS, so I do understand a great deal of the
legal aspects of this Administration. What has me perplexed, that I do
not understand, is two-fold. A neighbor of mine is being ‘investigated’,
although completely informally, with paperwork to prove no case has been
opened, and I also have a friend of mine who works for a mental health
agency, whose grandchildren are in foster care (again), and have been for
the past few months. My friend has not been even given the courtesy of a
return phone call regarding visitation with her grandchildren.
However, my neighbor had a return visit today, which takes up a
great deal more time than returning a phone call and doing some legwork
setting up a visitation between a grandparent and a couple of foster
children. My neighbor’s situation is that she left her three oldest
children in a babysitter’s care while she took the youngest with her on a
trip to the store. The babysitter is a younger teenager. When she returned, she found that her second oldest had been beaten with a rod from a clothing drying rack. Her child was bleeding from wounds on the face. It was not a pretty sight. She immediately took her daughter to the hospital emergency room. She did not even take the time to unload the remaining groceries from the truck.
In Indiana, like most, if not all States, Child Protective Services are
not allowed to investigate claims of child abuse by a non-custodian, as in
the case of a babysitter or grandparent. While my neighbor had her
daughter at the hospital for her injuries, hospital staff called not only
the police department of our city, but also the police department covering
the city the hospital is located in. They also called Child Protective
Services. My neighbor told both police departments and the responding CPS worker the same story: she had gone to the store, leaving the three oldest children in the care of the babysitter, a common occurrence, while she went to the grocery store with the youngest child going with her. She was gone for about 45 minutes. When she returned, she heard her two year old crying, and when she saw her, immediately noticed bruises and blood on her daughter’s face. She asked the baby sitter what happened and the babysitter told her that she had been in the house getting juice for the kids and that one of the neighbor kids, aged five, was hitting the two year old with a stick. The babysitter told her that she went outside and took the stick away from the five year neighbor kid and threw it into the woods that surround our neighborhood. The two older brothers of the two year old girl stated to police, however, that the babysitter was the one who hurt their sister. They also told police that while the babysitter was hitting their sister, that the babysitter was laughing about it. There were 15 welts counted on the child’s face, legs, and arms, none on the torso, front or back. There was blood on the comforter in one of the bedrooms, as well. No neighbors, including myself, heard or saw anything when this happened.
With this story from my neighbor, the two year old’s mother, the police investigated further by questioning the parents of the five year old neighbor boy, and found that he was not in the area at the time, because they were all at a back-to-school function. They then went to the mother with the information and told her that although the babysitter’s story was full of holes, they could do nothing because she had stated that someone else had been the perpetrator in the incident. Now, the detectives on the case are sitting with their hands tied, and CPS is looking at the mother, who wasn’t even there when this occurred. CPS is barred from looking any further than the mother, just like in many other cases, and has issued a safety plan which entails that the mother shall ensure that her children only have adult supervision, her house remain clean at all times, and that her children be kept away from the babysitter, also with the wording, ‘at all times.’
I am very perplexed over this matter, because while the safety plan is assuredly just a support mechanism, this caseworker has seen the children, has seen the house, and the paperwork states that the caseworker only has 30 days to make a decision on the situation. This incident with the baby being battered began about two and a half weeks ago. Could this caseworker not find the time to make a phone call to set up visitation with my friend, who would like very much to see her two grandchildren, instead? I seriously doubt my neighbor is going to ask the babysitter to watch her children again. And in addition, the babysitter’s family currently has an ongoing case with CPS, which entails several factors I won’t touch on here. Many people have cases with CPS, that prove to be unfounded, and perhaps theirs will be the same. The issue I have is that CPS is already involved there, now an additional caseworker is assigned to a related incident, and yet, my friend still waits for a phone call so she can see her grandchildren. How long will she wait?