So, as much as I don’t want to advertise this, for the sake of being honest, I’m going to. We had CPS show up at our house today. Why? Of all the reasons, someone complained that we had trash on our floor and the baby could eat it. The CPS caseworker seemed almost annoyed at having been here. She rushed through the entire visit. It was almost like it was just a complete inconvenience for her just as much as it was for me. I can’t blame her. I wouldn’t want to be called in about a little bit of trash being on the floor where a normal, likely, sane person would just clean it up. I’d want to be more worried about the abuse cases, the drug dealers, and all of that. It seems like a stupid reason to be called in.
So we sat down and had our chat. She was looking for evidence of anything that would make her visit worth it. Sander had decided to poop on the floor in Corde’s room. He’s been doing so well! He’d been using the toilet without assistance for a week, but today, of all days, he had to default to the floor. She took pictures of the kids while I cleaned up the floor. She said everything looked fine, I just needed to clean up the toy chaos in my living room, which only existed because I’m trying to reorganize the toys so we can downsize some more. In other words, had she shown up Monday when I was done, we wouldn’t have even had a problem!
What gets me about all of this is someone could have easily said something to me about it if they saw a problem. Instead, CPS is involved. This whole thing is not only a waste of their time and resources, but completely ridiculous. It’s not exactly like I let my child crawl around the floor unattended while I eat trash all day. I actually pay attention to my children. Sure, sometimes food ends up on the floor because I let the kids have chips or a candy wrapper ends up on the floor instead of in the trash. It happens. When I notice it, I pick it up. When it needs to be vacuumed up, I wait until morning. Since Sander often goes to sleep after Corde and Beekee, it’s not uncommon for him to drop chips or something on the floor while he’s watching Oz play video games. He likes to carry around peppermints in his pockets and I don’t always see the wrappers on the ground right away when he finally decides to eat one. These are simple little things. I also tend to feed the baby sitting in my lap, and since he only eats things he can self-feed, sometimes that means there’s a mess at my feet that I need to clean up. These things happen. I’ll admit freely that maybe I should get it cleaned up immediately, but I try not to stress about it. My energy is focused on time with my children, not jumping on every little piece of dropped food as soon as I see it. Spilled juice and drinks? Sure. When Sander has an accident or Luca strips off his diaper than pees? Definitely. But little scraps of food? Most of the time Luca is chilling out with me, so he’s not even on the floor to get into things even if he wanted to. It just doesn’t make sense. How hard would it be to say, “Hey, I notice you’ve sometimes got some stuff out on the floor at night. Aren’t you concerned the baby will eat it? It makes me worry.” That would be much more polite than calling CPS and it would have gotten the situation handled just as effectively.
On top of that, I don’t want to see my tax dollars wasted like that. I know a lot of people say “Poor people don’t even pay taxes so they have no right to complain.” In some states that might be true. You can file as “exempt” or you can get all that money back in your tax return. However, in Texas there is no state tax. It’s all done through sales tax. In other words, unless I’m buying food, I’m being taxed on it. My school supplies? Taxed. My cleaning products? Well, only some of those are taxed because some are food products. Clothing for my kids? I forgot to check, but I’m pretty sure the thrift store does taxes there. Even Amazon charges state sales tax. So how am I not being taxed? And given Child Protective Services is paid for by the state, wouldn’t it go to say that my tax dollars are going to pay for CPS to operate. Normally I don’t have much of a problem with this. There needs to be some program out there to protect children that are in real danger. I will admit, I’ve known a lot of families that have gotten help from CPS. When Sander was little they gave us a Pack’n’Play for him to sleep in. That was really useful and he used it for quite some time. The social worker at the hospital when Luca was born went out of her way to get us a car seat, even though we already had one, but ours didn’t come out of the car. It was one of those convertible ones, not one of the ones with the little basket you take out, like the travel systems. She thought this would be easier and it wouldn’t be questionable whether the hospital would let us leave. These programs can be very helpful, but I’d hate to think that while they’re wasting time on checking my house for trash that’s supposedly on the floor they’re wasting resources that could be used to, say, deal with the teenage girl down the street whose parents are meth heads. Why are they wasting their time on me when they could be worrying about some domestic violence situation.
The funny thing is it’s all a matter of who calls. There are some people out there who will place a call on anyone. Then there are some people who won’t call even when they know for a fact very intolerable things are happening. I knew of a boy who was locked in his room to the point where he piled up things in the corner to pee on because his mom wouldn’t let him out to use the bathroom. I didn’t report his mother because I didn’t know how and I wasn’t able to research it without her knowing. Then there was another mom who used to strap her child to a chair with a belt at meal times and wouldn’t let her up until she’d eaten every last bit of her food. If she peed herself, well, she should have eaten her food! I wish I could have reported that, but I didn’t have any evidence until months after I no longer knew how to track her down, and I wasn’t even a first-hand witness. I saw a little girl living in a house that was so severely cluttered that she had no room to play or do school work and so infested with all nature of bugs that she always looked like she got in a fight with a swarm of insects and lost. These are the kinds of families that need CPS called on them, but often times they never do because no one cares to report them. My family, however? My family has had more than our share of calls, two of which we were practically flat-out told were vindictive, and one from the social worker at the hospital where I was flat-out told it’s because we were “alternative looking people” and the woman probably made assumptions about us based on our looks. Last year they showed up on my birthday because a woman we knew said if Oz ever left me she’d call CPS on me after I called her out on stealing from the kids and I when we moved. She stole my chocolate truffles, my ice cream, Corde’s ice cream, and the rest of the kids’ Halloween candy. Oz took off for two weeks to help a friend whose wife just left him with his four kids, so this woman called to report that we had a bug infestation (that was true and the management of our building was supposed to be taking care of), that the kids were apparently being starved, and that I never kept food in the house. Ironically, the day she called happened to be the day she was babysitting the kids while I went to the grocery store with her room mate. I was furious. On top of that, the caseworker came to the door and said, “I can already tell this is going to be an open and shut case, so I’m (name) from CPS. Let’s take a look at what’s going on here, but I can already tell we’re probably going to be looking at closing this case as soon as possible because just looking at your kids, they look healthy and well fed.” I mean, really? Not only did that ruin my birthday and bring Oz home from helping out his friend to handle everything, but it also annoyed me that the guy pretty much told me he thought it was bogus from the start. The same thing happened today.
But, oh, how I love my kids! They did make the stress of it all better. Corde, always the curios one, had to ask who this person at the door was. We’ve had people here from Freecycle and other things, so she’s always curious on who comes for what reason. The woman introduced herself and said she was from Child Protective Services. I heard Corde say later (though hopefully she was quiet enough that the woman couldn’t hear her), “CPS again? Why won’t they realize that we’re just normal people? Don’t they have better things to do with their time than to bother us?”
Later I told the kids what the complaint was about. Before I could get the words out of my mouth, the kids were already guessing. They were too loud. No, it was the bugs (they seem to be a problem in all these trailers). Wait, no, it had to be the dishes. Someone complained because no one was feeling well so the dishes didn’t get done. Not the dishes, the fact that there were art supplies and school books all scattered under the tables in the dining room. My favorite was Sander’s reason, “Because Baby Bear did it and broke it all!” I have no idea what he was talking about, but it was funny. Finally I told them about the trash. Beekee got angry about it. He said he ALWAYS cleans up his trash and his plates. The only things he leaves out are the toys, of course. How could they not know that? Corde said that it was a stupid reason to come here because someone could have come in and said, “Um, excuse me? Your house is messy. You need to clean it or I’m going to have to call CPS so they can make you clean it because I don’t like it.” Then Corde made an even more wise observation. “If they see one of Sander’s candy wrappers on the floor, why don’t THEY be proactive and clean it up? Or they can tell Sander to clean it up. You have four kids! You can’t be expected to pay attention to every tiniest detail. You always get to it and clean it up so why does it matter if it’s right away or before you go to bed? Do they really think we’re going to all choke and die on a piece of trash while you’re watching us? Some people are so stupid…” I love Corde. She really threw some logic down on the whole situation. As she’s been saying for months, “If people helped each other out then no one would have to be more stressed all the time. People just need to take care of each other more. It doesn’t seem like such a hard thing to me.”
Hmm…you know, she’s right. If the people who claim to be our friends would just stop for one minute to see how stressed Oz and I are in trying to take care of bills, education, and the needs of four kids they might be more interested in stopping to help us out. I mean, since I’ve gotten to Texas I’ve had three different friends who come over and clean my house while visiting with me. One was in exchange for taking care of her kids while she was in school. One was simply because she enjoyed cleaning and helped me get off my butt and enjoy it too. The third saw how sick I was all the time while pregnant with Luca, so she’d come over and help me out while I listened to her and tried to talk her through some of her challenging situations. I had another friend come over and help me out with sorting through my kids toys to figure out what had to go to charity because I was completely overwhelmed. Their toys took up a whole closet as well as their bedroom and half the living room. She could tell I didn’t know where to begin, so she helped me find a place to start and get motivated. As she said, “It’s going to be hard and you’ll probably hate me now, but at the end of it you’ll feel so much better. Just trust me on this one.” She was right. In return I’ve listened to friends, given free dance classes to people who couldn’t afford it, but really needed the added body confidence, did some free landscaping work, and most of it was a “pay it forward” kind of situation. Someone did good for me, so I went on to do good for someone else. Even when I really can’t afford to or I’m worn incredibly thin I still find time to do for others whenever I can because I hope that in doing so, when I really need it, someone will be there for me, though that’s sadly not the case as often as I might like. At the same time, I know I’ve never got more than I can handle and when push comes to shove and it really matters, I always find a way to make things work with the help of friends, family, etc.
I guess what I’m saying is if I saw a friend that I felt their house just needed to be kept after a bit better, maybe handle the clutter, instead of reporting them to CPS and wasting the time of a state resource, I’d just go help them get everything in order. Instead of calling CPS on us, someone could have done the same. It’s amazing what happens when you actually reach out and help someone rather than just taking the way out that doesn’t involve any interpersonal connection. It’s easier to cause problems in my life than to take the short while to offer any kind of help or advice. It’s easier to get Corde and Beekee’s dad to blow up at me over this stupid thing and threaten to take custody of them because they don’t have to deal with it. I just don’t understand. All I know is CPS is going to get really sick of being called out to see us only to turn the case over each and every time.
So, that was my bad day. Hopefully all of your days have gone better. In the mean time, I’m going to finish the task I started yesterday. The toys need to be sorted out so they can be put on Freecycle or donated to charity. After that it’s the books and clothes. I’m going to try and let this CPS thing go. I know she was just doing her job and I feel really bad because she seemed really annoyed at having to come out and breezed through everything. She wasn’t thorough in the least. She didn’t even do half the things I’ve come to know as pretty standard operating procedure. I’ve come to recognize the less they do and the less they really pay any attention, the less they think there’s an actual legitimate problem. I have a feeling I’m going to have yet another case overturned. Until then, I’m just going back to life as usual.