Husband got hit with situational (acute) depression last year that he was seeing a therapist for as well. The sessions weren’t working very well, and we thought if we had a joint session it would help us get on the same page as to what each therapist was hearing from us individually. I really dreaded this as I expected it would be a pile-on me and my issues.
The session went GREAT.
No sarcasm, a lot got hashed out, we came up with a few things to try; we even made an appointment to see them again. Right before we left my therapist, L, asked me if we were still doing something she'd suggested months ago, which was to have my husband give our kids a bath (5 y/o and 2 y/o) while I take that same time to clean up after dinner, which was supposed to happen every day. I said 'we were unable to keep up with bathing them every day.'
I should mention we had a baby in November, so she's just barely three months old.
Five days after the appointment someone came to our door from Child Protective Services saying they'd had a report that "there are dishes piled up in the sink, and the kids are dirty."
(there's a new law in our state that has tightened the mandatory reporting laws about protecting children. Now, even if a mandatory reporter (nurses, teachers, doctors, therapists, etc.) hasn't seen the child in question, they can still report that the kids may be in danger solely based on what someone has said. L had said to me at the joint session that we should be careful to make sure the kids look presentable because the new law makes mandatory reporters look a lot more closely and report for more minor things than they used to. She implied that this would be stress we wouldn’t need, NOT that the scrutiny might cause us to lose the kids.)
The whole family had just spent the past 3 days laid low with the flu, so there were tissues everywhere, dishes piled up, the 2 year old was still in pajamas in the afternoon, etc. The CPS representative went to look at the kids' rooms and at the kitchen, then said she would have to come back to see the 5 year old the next day. Husband and I immediately went to look up the law, because we'd not had any visitors in months and the only people that could have reported 'dirty dishes in the sink' were the therapists, L and T.
Summary of the law:
-- In 2014, at least 12 new child abuse laws, many based on recommendations issued by the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Welfare, have or will come into effect. Many of these laws are designed to improve the safety of children in Pennsylvania and will have significant implications for county child welfare agencies. New mandatory reporting legislation considerably expands the list of mandated reporters, establishes new training requirements and provides protection for good faith reporting. Expansion of the definitions of perpetrator, child abuse, parent and child will also have an impact. --
Essentially, the Penn State situation should never happen again. Not a problem there.
After this happened, my husband kept his appointment with his therapist, T. He said the guy was adamant that the reason they called was the law had made it impossible for them not to. T even said that he should have called on January 1, because that was when the law went into effect. Shortly after that, L called me and told me that the two of them had agonized over whether or not to call all weekend, and that in the end she wanted us to be able to be referred to community-based programs that help out parents who are struggling, and they thought this was the best way to go about that. When I objected to this she said something half-hearted about how it really is the law and anyway, they both said "over and over" when they made the report that it wasn't a case of *abuse,* it was simply neglect. Her attitude was conciliatory (T's had been adamant), and her implication was that the two of them had needed to persuade CPS to come out to my house in the first place.
For reference, here is our state's statute for Neglect: The term 'child abuse' includes serious physical neglect by a perpetrator constituting prolonged or repeated lack of supervision or the failure to provide essentials of life, including adequate medical care, that endangers a child's life or development or impairs the child's functioning.
It’s worth mentioning that when the person came back to see our oldest, she said everyone seemed happy and healthy, and there was no cause to start a case.
Husband and I are just completely stunned, since the two stories we got from the therapists do not match at all. He pointed out to T that we came to them for mental help, and if we'd needed physical help, we'd have asked for it or gone looking on a website. I feel completely betrayed, because any situation I can think of from L's standpoint is not helpful. If they'd both told us that they felt it was required of them to call because of the new law, it's one thing, but if you are "agonizing" over calling (direct quote), that means you should look up the statutes and see if you honestly think it applies. I feel like T persuaded L to rationalize that it'd be best to call for us for X and Y reasons, NOT because she genuinely felt there was neglect.
TL;DR: had a joint therapy session with my husband, mentioned we had a messy house and don't bathe our kids every day, therapists called Child Protective Services on us (who didn't open a case), and their stories about why they called don't match, so we no longer trust them