raising children in America

May 14, 2010

RE: CPS Investigation
Mrs. and Mrs. Hogaboom
814 1st Street
Hoquiam, WA 98550

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Hogaboom,

This letter is to inform you that your case will close. I want to reiterate the position of the Division of Children and Family Services in maintaining the safety of your children.

The Department became involved with your family after concerns that Nels was able to get away from your home and attempted to board a Grays Harbor Transit bus without an adult, shoes, or coat. Nels is still a very young child and although he is very bright, he requires supervision when he is outside playing.

It is the goal of the Department to keep children safe and in their family of origin. In the event that another referral is received regarding the same concerns of lack of supervision, your case will be staffed for a higher level of intervention.

In the event you need referrals to services, please feel free to contact me or refer to the Community Service List included with this latter. I can be contacted at the number below.


Becky Sanchez
Department of Social and Health Services
Aberdeen Children’s Administration Office
Social Worker III – CPS
415 West Wishkah Street
Aberdeen, WA 98520

cc: Case File

So to be clear, my son took a venture and did something I do not sanction and someone called the police (instead of calling my house or leading him the few blocks home). Since police are mandated reporters in this state they are required to call CPS (believe me I did try to convince the officer otherwise). And even though the case is closed (this is the only “win” you can have once an investigation is initiated) – since there is no age limit on required “supervision” (which apparently means EVERY SECOND) for children – this means if anyone ever dials their cell phone and calls the police regarding my son (and perhaps even my daughter), the government will go “higher level of intervention” on us.

There is no appeal process for this as it stands.

What does “a higher level of intervention” mean for our family? Maybe something like this: [link] (no really, do read the entire article).

The concerns around this case were of “neglect”. You can read Washington State’s common indicators of neglect here: [link].

Dozens of kids in this neighborhood play outside without constant supervision. I wonder if the parents know they’re only a cell phone call away from all this?

I wonder if the people who call the cops to dump their “concerns” in the laps of Authority really know how this plays out?

Above I’ve listed facts. Here are some thoughts. “They” are wrong, and I am right to believe no interventions are required and my rights to my children should remain as they are today.  Here’s another thought: I have no confidence another call isn’t looming over who-knows-what if I allow my children outside.

Here are some feelings.  I feel crushed, alone, despairing, and depressed.  I believe something within myself has been snuffed out.

16 thoughts on “raising children in America

  1. I’m still not quite sure how you fall under the heading of neglect – is it because he didn’t have a coat on? Because it’s not that he hasn’t got adequate clothing but rather that he chose not to wear it.

    Seriously though, I guess every parent whose kid runs away from home, or gets abducted on the way to or from school or a friend’s house, or even who simply disappears from a store should be labeled a bad and neglectful parent. It makes me sick. I suppose you’ll have to keep one of those leashes on him from now on. Oh wait, that would be abusive, wouldn’t it? You can’t use logic with idiots and bureaucrats because they don’t know what that is.

    Don’t despair. Don’t stop believing that what you want Nels and Sophie to learn (how to be self-sufficient and problem-solve) is important.

    Interestingly enough, tonight the kids and I stopped at JoAnn fabrics to get some fabric paint and when we came out I noticed that the car parked next to us had 2 small children in it, buckled in car seats. I’m talking kids who couldn’t talk yet except maybe to say mama. There was no one in there with them. Instead of freaking out (though I was shocked that someone would leave 1 year-old babies in a car by themselves) I slowed down packing my gang in the van so that I was able to make sure that the mother who belonged to these kids actually came back. She did. What’s more, I didn’t say anything to her because I wasn’t sure that it was worth the argument that would ensue. My concern was that it was still a warm evening and the windows were closed all the way on that car. It gets hot here in metro DC and there are laws about leaving your dog in the car; I suppose that maybe there should be a more explicit one about leaving your kids in the car.

    This should make you feel happy, though: Thursday we were going to have spaghetti for dinner and the girls wanted garlic bread but I didn’t want to wake up the baby so we could all go to the store. Instead I sent Maeve on her bike to get it. It’s a good 7-10 minute ride to the store but she made it and I could tell how pleased she was with herself for making it there and back alone.

  2. Ugh. I don’t even know what to say about this. We went through this as kids (although it happened during a time, in the 80s, when they were a bit laxer about these things and the subject was my brother, who was already in high school at the time) and it was seriously terrifying. Fucking people who called! Who does that? Abrazos, mama.

  3. Lame.
    I only have one friend who has dealt with CPS, and she says she discovered that she didn’t have to comply with their suggestions once they took it to another level – but the story is (I share this not so people can make shitty comments about her, but because the story is a lot more extreme sounding, but nothing happened), and I heard it from her, she left her kids in the car (at ages three and four I think) at night while she went into a bar (which is specifically illegal in WA state). And as a problem drinker ended up staying a while (and I don’t know how long, but I think at least 15 minutes) and came out, saw cops by her car, tried to get to her kids, got tasered in front of her kids, CPS threatened her with taking the kids away and she voluntarily had them live with her parents. Meanwhile she sobered up, jumped through the CPS hoops (parenting classes, AA meetings, therapy for the kids, paperwork)and was “allowed” to have her kids back full time.
    Later she had multiple complaints to CPS from neighbors and also her own mother (locking her kids out of the house, screaming at them, her kids screaming for “too long”, her mother felt she was using drugs and not washing her kids and acting abusive toward them) and dealt with CPS again. But she refused to work with CPS, asked them point blank if they were going to take her kids away and they skirted the issue and asked her to jump through hoops and she said no. And CPS kept meeting with her, she kept refusing to do what they asked, and she has her kids, and no longer deals with CPS. Once again – I don’t point this out so you or others will think/say/write “wow, Kelly is a lot better mom than this lady, this lady totally deserves XYZ”. Just as an example of more complaints and refusal to comply with no repercussions (her kids are older now, and she hasn’t dealt with CPS in a few years at least).
    According to a mandatory reporter who teaches a toddler class I took kids get taken away for broken bones, blood and extreme bruising (by their parents) and usually it has to happen more than once. Also obvious sexual abuse, though many kids end up staying in the home anyhow. This is from a woman who has turned people in to CPS many times, and who has helped have kids taken from the home repeatedly (which totally creeps me out – she teaches a parenting class and meets with people to prevent child abuse, but then is also a mandatory reporter…so even if someone is working on NOT harming their kids, she turns them in).
    This whole thing sucks. I am sorry you are having to deal with it. You are better suited to dealing with it than most people I know, and that still doesn’t make it ok/easy/acceptable. No one watches their kids every second, nor should they. You let your kids play outside without obsessively following them around, which is fine. It seems crazy to me that CPS is going after you for what is probably at worst a lapse in Nels’ judgment (though that really is debatable). You know the laws, you know your kids. They know how to be bureaucrats and make paperwork and bother you to half to death.
    I love the “was able to get away from your home and attempted to board a Grays Harbor Transit bus without an adult, shoes, or coat.” part – wtf? My child could easily “get away from my home” without shoes, coat or adult any time he wanted to. He couldn’t board a bus because we don’t have a fucking bus, but he could easily walk down the road and go see some horses or whatever. I don’t tell him not to because it’s never occurred to me that he would. But he could easily leave the yard (we don’t live in a neighborhood, and it’s a big yard) and venture out. Would that automatically make me a “bad parent”? That I wasn’t watching his every move every second of every day? no.
    I hope that you can find peace and relaxation as well as freedom from this crap, and all without locking your kids up in the house. Stupid CPS. They should get to work filling potholes and dealing with real problems.
    Also, if the law doesn’t say six-year-olds-must-be-constantly-watched, then it doesn’t say that. And it doesn’t say that.

  4. We had our then-eleven-year-old reading next to our then-two-year-old in the car (windows cracked, but it was about 60 degrees out) while my husband ran into the bookstore. In the FEWER than 3 minutes it took him to run in and get the book, pay and come back out to the car, two women were skulking around the car looking in and apparently called the police, because when they returned home, the police from the city where the bookstore is located showed up on our front porch, accusing us of poor parenting and threatening to report us to CPS. The officer asked our then-eleven-year-old if he was scared, and he said “only when those women were staring into the car and tapping on the windows.” The officer then said we were neglectful for allowing our child to be put in a position where he had to be frightened. We were SO angry. Who’s calling the police on those *&%$#es who are stalking cars and scaring kids??


    in the end nothing came of it other than a paranoia about leaving our kids at any time – not out of concern for their safety, because we know they can handle themselves – but becase of our fear of being “reported.”

  5. I’ve went back to your other post and read the comments left after mine. What I see chronicled is a distinct lack of personal involvement on the part of local citizens. You don’t ask a kid if he’s lost, you call the cops. You don’t see a kid without shoes and ask him if he needs help, you call the police. What is that but a direct reflection of people refusing to personally involve themselves with something they see as perplexing or troublesome? (I’m not saying what Nels did was troublesome, but I’m pretty sure if I saw a child trying to board the bus with no shoes, I’d kinda wonder what was going on.) I don’t know. We have a passel of kids that run up and down our street all the time, sometimes venturing into our backyard because it’s pretty and secluded. And damned if some mother started yelling at me when I ran out to tend to her kid who was bleeding on our sidewalk when he crashed his bike. I look back on it now, and I’m pretty sure her anger was that I would “report her” or something silly. Won’t keep me from doing it again, but I felt so badly for her.

    I don’t know what this means for you Kelly, but keep on keeping on, my friend. I believe in how you are raising your kids.

  6. “The Department became involved with your family after concerns that Nels was able to get away from your home…” This comment on the letter your received from CPS serves to confirm the suspicion that our government expects homelife to match the level of institutionalization of public school. Except that parents are held to higher accountability standards than school personnel when a child ESCAPES. The tone of the letter makes it sound like we should have locked windows and doors with children inside at all times.

    In a buddhist sense, I don’t want to negate your feelings, “…crushed, alone, despairing, and depressed. I believe something within myself has been snuffed out”, but in my heart I would prefer you could go about your loving parenting without having to side-step or head-on this assaultive-legal-control-system.

  7. oh, and the whole “It is the goal of the Department to keep children safe and in their family of origin” bit? what total shit. “we will take your kids away if you don’t keep them safe, sorry”. Why mention that it’s a goal to keep kids in their family of origin? To threaten you.
    And also, say Nels does escape from Hogaboom Prison one day, do they also get dibs on Sophie? Is she unsafe if she doesn’t manage to get away from the house (with or without a coat and shoes)?
    We had threats from the doctors at the hospital, from the developmental testing people, from the local school district to call CPS on us if we didn’t do what they wanted us to do with our own child (an infant in three of the cases) and for about a year I actually thought that the police might show up at our house and try to take Boots. I know it’s crazy, but I was shell-shocked by the whole extreme prematurity/hospitalization/fears for his development shit. And just because it probably won’t amount to anything didn’t really mean that I felt ok, strong, and confident.

  8. Someone called the cops because my child was playing outside while I was in the shower. I always wondered why the person didn’t talk to ME – or ring my doorbell if she was really concerned. I do remember that my son tried to tell me that someone was at our house and I thought maybe it was a friend. My son was inside the house by the time the cop arrived. The cop asked my son, “Were you playing outside today?” and my son answered, “DUH!” We all laughed.

    Sometimes mommy has to use the bathroom!

  9. CPS needs to be abrogated altogether. Where in the Constitution is there any provision for government involvement in a family’s private affairs?

  10. My son is the same age as Nels. About a year ago, he woke up before I did, got my keys out of my purse, went into the garage, put our van in gear, and backed into the (closed) garage door. He had locked the side door to the garage, and since he had my keys, I couldn’t unlock it. I couldn’t open the big door because the van was pushing against it. And he was having a grand old time, so he refused to unlock the garage door. I mean, how was I supposed to anticipate he would do something like THAT?? We bought a combination lockbox for the keys the next day.

    I agree with another commenter that the remark about a “higher level of investigation” was meant solely to intimidate. Someone is a little carried away with power in their little bureaucratic fiefdom, especially since that’s kind of a pathetic threat (“we won’t just look at you, we’ll *really* look at you! with both eyes even!”). If the concern were to make sure you did not “neglect” Nels in the future, they would have reiterated exactly what is expected of parents and why.

    Many great parents are reported to CPS for bogus reasons, so don’t feel bad—or alone.

  11. I’ve probably said it before, but people should only call “authorities” in an emergency. Unfortunately, in today’s world many people call authorities either because they can’t deal with the crisis, or because the situation is inconvenient for them.

    In all of the cases above, the problems could have been solved with a little bit of creativity. I am beginning to think this is the result of poor problem-solving skills that has become more prevalent in our society lately. Some people refuse to think for themselves.

    …well…I’ll also add that some people merely love handing out “justice” and think it’s their duty to report things that don’t meet their view of how things should be. For those people I say, it’s none of your damned business, so just move along.

    One thing to consider before calling the police in a non-emergency situation is that you may not have all of the facts. Things aren’t always what they seem, and you may be causing a whole lot of unnecessary trouble that could have been avoided with a little bit of investigation.

  12. I’ve been thinking about this whole situation a lot since you posted this… and I haven’t come up with anything past feeling angry and scared and so very very bothered. I can barely formulate thoughts about this. It’s just so… ass-backwards.

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