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During the course of this writers lifetime, there have been many discussions about Child Protective Services, otherwise knows as SRS. This writer has read many articles regarding their services and what they are suppose to offer children, protecting them from abuse and neglect. Not only do they step in and removed children from abusive and neglectful situations, SRS also takes into their care, children who are deemed delinquent. Unfortunately for this writer, I have seen SRS at work and have seen the damage that they have caused to otherwise good families. I have seen them totally ignore a desperate plea for help from those who are in the gravest need.
Juvenile Jeremy, was always a difficult child. He refused to conform or follow any rules that were setforth by his mother. He was in constant fist fights at school, when he attended. By the time that Jeremy was thirteen, he was drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. He was sneaking out of his bedroom window and gone for the night. A very large boy, he was physically threatening to his mother and his two sisters and brother. Jeremys mother had been told by his school psychologist, that Jeremy counseling and other community services such as PRIME, which helps families with problem children.
By the time that Jeremy had turned fourteen, his mother knew he was out of her control. In the beginning of 1999, Jeremy had invited a friend over to his house to smoke pot and drink alcohol. After they had smoked marijuan, Jeremy engaged in a wrestling match with this other boy. The wrestling turned into much more and Jeremy kicked him repeatedly about the head and body knocking him to the floor, where he pummeled the boy with both fists. A puddle of blood was left on the carpet where Jeremys mother found it when she returned home a short time later.
Jeremys mother, Michelle, returned home after being gone for just under two hours, only to learn that Jeremy had gotten into a serious fight. The other boys father showed up to inform Michelle that his son was in the hospital with a serious eye injury and it would be some time before they would know if he would regain his sight. Michelle had not received the same story from her son, and given Jeremys history she questioned her other children, who confirmed what the youths father had reported. The following morning, Michelle went to the Rutland Sheriffs Department where she filled a C.H.I.N.S., Report, Children In Need of Supervision. Not knowing just what to do, and feeling her son was totally out of control now, she asked for assistance from SRS.
Michelle had not had much faith with SRS but having tried all other options they were now a last resort. She wanted to believe and have hope that SRS would be able to protect her son from harming himself and others. Jeremy spent five days at Woodside Juvenile Detention Facility. Michelle agreed to take her son back only if SRS could assure support in caring for Jeremy. This would mean assigning a case worker who would have contact with Michelle on a daily basis, and help Michelle enforce house rules with her son. During the six weeks that Jeremy resided with his mother, no one from SRS called or returned phone calls to Michelle. Not only had they promised this service, it was also court ordered.
In the middle of December, Jeremy threatened to commit suicide. Michelle immediately called Jeremys case worker to request that he be removed from the home at once and placed where he would be safe from himself and from hurting anyone else. Instead of reaching the SRS worker, Michelle talked to a receptionist who flat out refused to contact the case worker stating that is was after hours, and instructed Michelle to contact Rutland Mental Health. At previous court hearings, Michelle was told by the SRS worker that if at anytime, Jeremy became out of control that she was to call the number gave her and they her son would be removed and taken to a safe place. After speaking with a woman at Rutland Mental Health, Jeremy became very agitated and looped a noose around his neck. He became extremely belligerent. Worried about the younger childrens safety, Michelle once again called the number that social worker from SRS had given to her. This time she demanded immediate intervention and removal of her son. The SRS receptionist told Michelle that there was no housing available on such short notice and ended the conversation with Michelle. The following morning, Michelle called SRS and told them what had taken place, and she was told to hang tight. The SRS worked said he would set up an appointment to see Jeremy.
At the interview, Michelle explained the stress that this was placing on her family and herself. She confided to the worker that she just could not go this alone anymore and she requested counseling for her family as well. She was told it would be a number of weeks before that would take place. Michelle told the SRS worked that Jeremy needed to be placed into a residential treatment place. It was a thirty day program where trained staf fwould observe the everyday behavior of the child, at some point it would be decided what the next step would be in the course of the childs treatment. One week into the program, Jeremy ran away. He was picked up by the Bennington Police Department and returned to the home. Michelle was at no time informed that he son had fled. Fourteen days later Jeremy ran away for a second time. Michelle was contacted by the program director, but at no time by SRS. Under social service policy, the social worker tasks state that when a youth is missing, attempts to ascertain the whereabouts of the youth and special circumstances, (i.e., medical/mental health conditions) notifies youths parents as soon as possible, but within twenty-four hours. It was decided that in Jeremys best interest, he go into a long term residential treatment program, one designed to handle kids with emotional and behavioral issues. February 4, 2000, Jeremy took up residence in Bennington at 204 Depot. The first night there, Jeremy ran away. He jumped from a second story bedroom window. At this time, no one made Michelle aware that he son had run away. Michelle found out four hours later, when the director called her, as he was uncertain as to weather SRS had called her. They had not.
Michelle had requested counseling serivces from SRS months before to help her and her children cope. Upon Jeremys arrival at 204 Depot, Michelle once again requested counseling, due to the present stressess. It was taking its toll on Michelle. The SRS worker promised to get Michelle counseling for her and her three other children, and he told her it would be just a few weeks. Three weeks into the program at 204 Depot, the SRS worker had taken Jeremy into Rutland for a doctors appointment. At a red light, Jeremy ran from the worker. Michelle was doing dishes when one of her children came running in stating that Jeremy was in the front yard. The was six hours after he fled from the SRS worker. Once again SRS failed to call her. Michelle contacted SRS immediately and asked the worker just what he wished for her to do with Jeremy? Eventually the SRS worker called the state police and they transported Jeremy back to 204 Depot.
Three weeks later Jeremy returned back to his mothers house after running away once again. Again SRS had not informed her that he son had fled again. The worked eventually apologized and said he was sure that someone from 204 Depot had called her. In the policy manual for the state of Vermont, when a child is in the immediate care of his or her social worker, it is the absolute duty of the worker to contact the parent or parents of said child. On Friday, June 9, 2000, Jeremys SRS worker took him to a second doctors appointment. At approximately 9:30 a.m. , Jeremy bolted again, and once again the worker never notified Michelle. Michelle never learned of this until the follow Tuesday when one of the counselors had called her to see if she had heard from Jeremy. Michelle became immediately alarmed due to the amount of time that had lasped. His whereabouts was unknown and the lack of supervision was of paramount concern to Michelle. Michelle had placed her first born son into SRS custody for her sons sake and for his behavioral problems. SRS stands for Social Rehabilation Services and their goal is to protect children. The misison statement from the Vermont Agency of Human Services states: We are committed to protect and strengthen families, in partnerhship with families and communities. We will carry out our responsibility to serve the best interest of children who are abuse, neglected, deliquent, or beyond the control of their parents.
It is the absolute opinion and belief of this writer that SRS has miserably failied this family. They have not kept their promise to protect Jeremy. They have not kept their promise to keep the mother informed. On the last run away, Michelle was told by a friend who had spotted her son in a nearby town, and for the next several hours Michelle spent several hours in the woods tracking her son, and when she found him, she took him to the Rutland Police Department where he was taken back into state custody.
It is with out a doubt an absolute travesty that the agency of child protective services once again has failed to keep the best interest of this child their priority. They have made their mission statement look foolish and while most agencies are under paid and over worked, it is the child that must always come first.
Jeremy has been allowed to fall through the cracks of an inept agency. An agency who had not kept its word. An agency who had not kept in contact with the mother. The blatant disregard that this agency had shown to this family has caused stress above and beyond the norm. The lack of counseling for the siblinglings at home has caused many problmes, and now almost a year later, the three younger children, finally in counseling but with the help of an unknown agency has finally helped them to try and piece their lives back together. But the end result with Jermey is unknown at this time.
The state of Vermonts SRS agency has failed to meet their responsibility. They have not been able to provide protection for this child, and have passed the responsibility off to 204 Depot. It is the belief and arguement of this writer that agencies like SRS are becoming more and more distrusting and prehaps even dangerous. Because of their ineptness and not being able to follow their own rules as set forth by the State of Vermont, puts not just Jeremy in peril but other children as well. With the permission of the mother, I contacted SRS and told them of the paper I was writing and asked for an interview. I was flaty denied an interview, which only supported my fears of SRS.
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