Division of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF)

A Realistic Look at a Career in Child Protective Services (CPS) Script

Disclaimer Text:
The following program contains graphic depections of child abuse that viewers may find disturbing. Viewer discretion advised.  

 

Fade from Black 

DES Logo on limbo black set. John and Monica enter frame as they speak

John Hicks:
Hello, we would like to thank you for your interest in a career with Child Protective Services in the state of Arizona. My name is John Hicks.  

Monica Snyder:
…And I’m Monica Snyder.  Every day, John and I work to keep children safe from abuse and neglect in our roles with CPS for the Arizona Department of Economic Security. 

You probably have some preconceived ideas about CPS. Perhaps through your area of study or maybe what you’ve heard in the media. You’ve seen the job posting and that gives you a bit of an idea of what this job entails but certainly doesn’t give the whole story. 

John:
So before you complete that application, we’re going to give you a realistic look at the job through the voices of people like us who are in the position now. Because we want to make sure the job you are seeking is a good fit for your skills and personality. A CPS Case manager’s job is complex, stressful and sometimes a little frightening. It’s also challenging and very rewarding.

Narrators exit frame

Fade to DES logo

Monica:

For the right person, it could be the toughest job you’ll ever love.

 

DES Logo remains

Graphic title:

The Arizona Department of Economic Security-Division of Children, Youth and families present:

It’s Not Just a Job

A Realistic Look at a Career in Child Protective Services

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Monica enters frame as she speaks

Monica:

Simply stated the mission of Child Protective Services is to provide safety, permanency and well being for children. Case managers accomplish this by investigating alleged reports of abuse and neglect. Then coordinate services to alleviate the situation that caused the report to be made.

Title Graphic

Laurie White
Program Manager
Child Protective Services
Flagstaff, Arizona

Insert footage:
Jennifer Ingalls approaches door rings bell.
Jennifer Ingalls interviews client and child.

Insert footage:
Adolfo Villegas interviews client

Laurie White:

We have case managers do social work versus law enforcement kind of work. The first piece is obviously the assessment of safety.  And so staff who serve in the investigative role or kind of the first responder role are the ones who initially go out when we receive a report and make that assessment of safety within a family system.  And once the safety assessment is made and the safety plan is completed, then the case is closed because the family is ok and the children are ok and the allegations perhaps weren’t true, Or the family is in need of or accepts services so another case managers’ role might be to provide the ongoing services to a family that would focus more on permanence and well being.

Insert footage:
Adolfo Villegas interviews client
(continued)

Title Graphic:
Marde Closson
Unit Supervisor
Sierra Vista, Arizona

Marde Closson:

When you are talking about children and parent and families, that’s one of the most vital pieces in our society. And we need to make sure children are safe, we need to make sure that the staff that provide these services to families are capable of making the best decisions possible for the families and they have the support in making those decisions.

Two shot Female and Male Narrator on set.

 

Monica:

So there you have it… It’s the job of CPS workers to ensure the well being of children by making sure they are in a safe and secure environment. Pretty simple mission huh?  Well, that’s a little like saying it’s the mission of a hospital to make sick people well.

John:

Monica, the hospital provides a good analogy Monica. If the world of social work were like a hospital, then working in Child Protective Services would be like working in the Emergency Room.  It takes a special type of person to thrive in an environment like that.

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Insert footage:
Jennifer Ingalls interviews angry client
(with sound bite)

Laurie White:

When we knock on a door we are rarely welcome. And we face hostility much of the time. So that staff have to be able to calmly, work through that with a family. And hopefully with time and skill and competence be able to touch a family and engage a family in a way that they’ll begin to see that something is not going right with their family. And that by working with us, things will get better.

Title Graphic:
Janet Sabol
Unit Supervisor
Glendale, Arizona

Insert footage:
Casa Grande case manager and aid at desk.

 

Janet Sabol:

There are so many expectations placed on case workers of things that they have to do, so many time frames when things have to be done by, so it’s really important to be able to take a look at the things you need to do and figure out what’s the most critical, what has to be done first. So the people that are real organized and are able to those kinds of decisions do better in the job.

Title Graphic:
Sarah Opuroku
Child Protective Services Specialist III
Glendale, Arizona

 

Sarah Opuroku:

That’s the biggest part organization and prioritizing. I mean you are going to have so many things that you have to do in every case that you are going to have to know what’s most important.

Title Graphic:
Ursula Garza
Child Protective Services Specialist III
Casa Grande, Arizona

 

Ursula Garza:

Many people don’t understand. It’s not an 8 to 5 job. It never will be. Because first of all, you’ll never fit all the work in an eight hour day and there’s always circumstances which will keep you out in the field later hours or earlier. Sometimes on weekends.

Title Graphic:
Maxine Bingham
Child Protective Services Specialist III
Glendale, Arizona

 

Maxine Bingham:

Because once you fall behind it becomes very overwhelming. You’re overly stressed. You feel like, Oh, I can’t do this anymore. This is just too much. So I think time management is very, very important in this job.

Insert footage:

Janet Sabol enters cubicle and speaks with Jennifer Ingalls.

Janet Sabol:

I think people who can do this job well have got to be able to learn quickly and be able to change quickly and because change is happening all the time in this agency and if you get stuck doing something one way and you are not willing to change the way you are doing it, you are going to be stuck not being able to keep up with the pace of things.

Title Graphic:
Teri Novachek
Child Protective Services Specialist
Sierra Vista, Arizona

Jennifer Ingalls interviews client

 

Teri Novachek:

To be a successful case manager, probably the biggest skill would be a listening skill. To listen to what people are telling you and to learn to ask the right questions.  Ask the question and just let them talk. Many times if you don’t say anything, they will just keep talking and you will really get all the information you need just by listening…

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Close up Male Narrator

John:

So according to our staff, to be good at this job you will need to be organized, flexible, have good time management skills. You need the ability to listen and the ability to remain calm in the face of hostility. What else?

Insert footage:
Marde reviewing case notes in CHILDS

Marde Closson:

They are going to be spending a lot of time doing paperwork and computer work. I know when people go into social work they think that they are going to be spending a lot of time with families. You probably spend one third of your time with families, and two thirds of your time documenting everything that you’ve done. 

Title Graphic:
Landry Wofford
Child Protective Services Specialist III
Casa Grande, Arizona

Landry Wofford:

Because you never know. You might do a case in April and then some time in December, somebody might have a question and say, “did this person even do this”.

Sarah Opuroku:

Very important to document. I mean if it’s not on there, it didn’t happen.

Title Graphic:
Michelle Orozco
Unit Supervisor
Tucson, Arizona

Michelle Orozco:

If you are not documenting the most important facts every single time you have a discussion with a bio parent, when you have a discussion with a relative, with a therapist, you’re missing the point.  Your missing very crucial information that needs to be documented so that when the time comes to write a court report, or the time comes to go in front of Foster Care Review Board, you have factual information to provide and you have the information and documentation to back it up. 

Case manager speaking to others including police officer in uniform

Two shot narrators

Monica:

A CPS case manager deals with a myriad of professionals. Psychologists, Substance Abuse Councilors, Court Personal like Attorneys and Judges, Foster Parents, Relatives and most importantly Birth Parents.  As a person first starting out with CPS, you may think that you will be spending your time working with children. What you’ll find however is that you will spend the majority of your time working on behalf on children, by offering programs and services to families… Families who may not necessarily want those services.

John:

And that can lead to conflict.  Laurie White mentioned earlier that when CPS knocks on a family’s door, we are rarely welcome.  So how do you deal with that?

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Insert footage:

Teri and co-worker driving to an investigation

Marde Closson:

That’s a difficult question. Because for me the easiest way to deal with that is to try and think of yourself in the client or families’ position. If somebody was coming to talk to you about your children, think about how you would feel with that. And recognize that and give that back to the family.  Let them know that you understand what they are feeling you know that this is difficult.

Sarah Opuroku:

Some parents can be difficult and give you a hard time, other than that I think you can’t take it personal. It’s not against you as a person. It’s just the situation that brought them into this…

Title Graphic:
Adolph Jones
Phoenix, Arizona

Adolph Jones:

So as a case manager, basically you have to go in and diffuse these types of things. In whatever ways that you can, you have to gain some kind of trust from them. Let them know that you will be there for them.

Title Graphic:
John Kelly
Training Officer
Child Welfare Training Institute
Phoenix, Arizona

 

John Kelly:

We deal with a lot of the negatives that society has. And therefore we as we grew up our selves, you know if we have been involved in anything like that, or if we have personal opinions about anything in particular. You know that could basically fog our judgment about how we work with these families. Because, how I am as a person doesn’t mean that how everybody else has to be as a person.

Insert footage:
Jennifer Ingalls hurriedly packing up and exiting cubicle.

Insert footage:
Jennifer Ingalls hustling to state vehicle

Marde Closson:

And one of the big things with conflict is to know where you are at personally, before you go out to make contact with a family. If you are having a really, really bad day, it might not be the best time to make contact. And you might need to… Sometime you’re going to have to no matter what because of time frames. But if you recognize that yourself, and you look internally. Recognize what the barriers are, recognize what is going on with you that day, when you interact with that family you are more aware of it and you can put it on a back shelf and not have it influence your interactions as much.

Ursula Garza:

But when we go to court, often times we get verbally attacked. By attorneys. By the families. And often times the judges may not rule the ways that we would like for them to. So you have to learn to deal with all those issues and not take them personally. 

Maxine Bingham:

Because if you let your emotions play a part then what will happen is you will realize that you will start thinking: Oh, well maybe that wasn’t such a good decision and second guessing yourself which is not a good thing to do. Especially when you are talking about the lives of children and protecting them.

John:

Child abuse and neglect doesn’t keep to a normal 9 to 5 work schedule. Nor does it adhere to any geographic limits. That means CPS Case Manager positions are available statewide. You should know however, working for CPS in a rural community comes with its own set of unique challenges.

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Title Graphic:
Jon Loomis
Unit Supervisor
Casa Grande, Arizona

Jon Loomis (NEW VERBAGE):

Ursula Garza:

Personally, I drive anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 miles a month just to make sure that I can visit my children. That I can make it to court. To child and family team meetings and all the other things that are involve in an on-going case.

 

Cover footage:
Teri Novochek and trainee driving down dirt roads

Landry Wofford:

From one call to the next you may have an hour and a half to two hour drive.  You’re going to go down a lot of dirt roads. You’re going to go to a lot of areas where… When I first got here I went through some areas where I said to myself “No one could possibly live back here down this road”. And lo and behold there they are.

 

Jon Loomis (NEW VERBAGE):

Cover footage:
Ursula Garza working at desk

Ursula Garza:

In rural areas, you do not have the luxury of specialized units (edit) I have children placed in Globe, in Flagstaff, Payson. Many of them in Mesa, Chandler, Surprise, El Mirage. (edit) And I have to see them on a monthly basis.

Graphic photos or video of a abused and neglected a filthy home.

Monica voice over:

On any give day, a Case Manager may visit a filthy, insect infested home to see children who haven’t been cared for in days. Or pick up a child at the hospital with cuts, bruises, broken bones or worse... Injuries that can’t be explained as accidental.  And trust me, there’s nothing that can prepare you for a case that involve sexual abuse.

It is easy to let your emotions get the best of you. Particularly when you see humanity at it’s absolute worst, up close.

Title Graphic:
Gardiner Brown
Child Protective Services Specialist III
Casa Grande, Arizona

Gardiner Brown:

The sex abuse and the physical abuse cases are very difficult. I just had one myself where the kid showed up at school and disclosed some information to the teacher. Had visible belt marks on his body and what not. And you see those things and its hard to comprehend how we as people can do those kinds of things to others. Especially small kids.

Teri Novachek:

The worst part of my job is seeing children who have been emotionally; physically harmed in such a manner that they have been beat down. And it hurts inside.

Michelle Orozco:

As an on-going case manager you come in very naive. You come in with the attitude that you are going to make these changes. And to walk into a home and to see how the family is living… It’s devastating, it’s devastating. And if you’ve never experienced that in your life, I don’t think that you are ever prepared. I don’t think that you are ever prepared. To walk into a hospital and to see a child that has just been physically abused by their parent. Its just something that you can never take out of your mind.

Landry Wofford:

Your family is going to feel a lot of the stress that you are going through when you are in this job. You’re going to have a hard day… A lot of hard days in CPS and when you get home, You are not going to be all the way there some days for your family. So to me its not just a personal decision, it’s a family decision where you have to decide if you want to take on all these other people’s and problems. Because I mean, you internalize it. Even though you don’t want to. Just by the fact of being around it, You take some of that home.

Michelle Orozco:

And it takes years and years for a person, for an on going case manager, for myself to be able to be strong enough to see it, to deal with it and to work through it.

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Insert footage:
Training at Child Welfare Training Institute

Monica:

Should you be hired on as a Child Protective Services Case Manager, you will receive extensive training to deal with not only the nuts and bolts of the job, but techniques to deal with the stressful situations you will encounter.

Insert footage:
Teri and Marde in Marde’s office discussing case

John:

Once in the field, you’ll work closely with your supervisor and co-workers in a team atmosphere to help ensure decisions made regarding a case plan are the right ones.

Teri Novachek:

The best way to describe my supervisor would be to say devil’s advocate. Many times a report will come in, a new report on a family (edit), and we will banter back and forth. What if this situation was like this, or was like that. And we’ll talk things through, Um, I’ll say let’s not remove let’s look at service and she’ll say no, you’ve gotta remove and we talk about why.

Teri and Marde in office discussing case

Marde Closson:

And then I have to review their documentation of the case and make sure everything that they have told me is documented in that case. (edit) But I also need to be there just to help them with the thinking process and make sure that we have covered all of our bases and that the staff understand all of the options that are available to the family.

Teri Novachek:

Because one person can’t make these decisions alone. Sometimes some of the things that I see as not being a problem, she does see as being a problem.

Marde Closson:

…you’re not an island and you can’t do it by yourself. You really need to have that team approach and work together as a team.

Janet Sabol:

Boy, when you get a team of case workers who work well together, it makes all the difference in what your unit is able to do.

Landry:

Its like a family in here. We’re always talking to each other and having a good time so it make it easier to deal with, at least for me personally to deal with some of those tough cases.

 

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Two shot narrators

John:

As we’ve said from the start, there are many facets of this job to consider before accepting the position. We’ve discussed the attributes and qualities that make a good manager…

Monica:

…And we’ve talked about the events and circumstances that can take an emotional toll.

John:

So why would anyone choose to be a Child Protective Services Case Manager?

Monica:

Meet Jennifer and Mark. They are going to tell us how CPS involvement changed the lives for the better.

Jennifer Wittse and Mark Walson tell of how CPS became involved with their family

Jennifer:

At the time of the birth of my daughter, I had been using meth. And I let them know at the hospital that I had been using and the day that I had her they came into the hospital and that’s’ um when everything started. That’s when CPS became involved in my life.

Mark:

I’m ADHD OK, and I brought… I started using meth when I was ten. And I’ve been using it to help focus. I’ve been using… I’ve been using for about 20 years.

Jennifer:

We’ve lost our home, we’ve lost our car. We’ve lost our belongings at least three separate times. And then we lost our children. Our daughter.

Mark:

Children are the most precious gifts that have ever been given. That’s the one thing I agree with god about. If you’re going to drop a child in someone’s lap it’s their responsibility to keep that child close to them. And I love my kids, I love my kids a lot. And for then some one to say hey… I’m going to take them away… Hey it’s time to start reevaluating stuff…

Jennifer:

It was a very hard struggle with the drugs.  We lost everything three times… It was time.

Adolph Jones:

When I first got there, he was very angry, she didn’t know what was going on…That kind of thing. Over the course of complied and stuff like that, they were accepting of what was really happening to them.

Jennifer:

We have an awesome case manager with Adolph. I have said this before, and I’ll say it again. When I first met up with Adolph, all three of us were together and um, and he came up to us and said… “We are a team” and he was pointing to all three of us. We are going to get through this together. And that was very, very important to me because I knew that he was there to help.

Adolph Jones:

The urine tests made them… You don’t have to do drugs, but it made them be clean. The family preservation gave them enough info where they could start working on their family issues. And of course the drug program TERROS helped Mark out immensely because it gave him better insight in terms of his drug addiction.

Jennifer:

We needed help with the rent, he got the money for us. If we needed help with food, he got food boxes. If we needed help finding jobs, he did a resume helped us with a resume. He was there, he returned my calls and he was there every time I needed him and we appreciate him very much. 

You know I go to group and I hear horror stories and it scares me very much. You know I feel for them and I almost feel guilty because I have an awesome case manager.

Mark:

It was the first time I had someone who came into my life that had the authority to make me listen to him but gave me the option. He said “look, what you put into this is what I will give you back. And you don’t want to give me anything, fine. I don’t want to give you nothing back.”  “You help me, I’ll help you and we will all get through this”.  And we did it. We were 100% compliant. He treated us as equals.

Adolph Jones:

There change has been dramatic in terms of what it was they really wanted to change. It was nothing specific I did as an individual. It’s a matter of as a case manager there’s a lot of creativity involved. So we take the info we have and we use them as tools.

Mark:

What we’re trying to do  is take away the damage caused by eight years of hell. And that’s what the drugs gave us was hell.

Adolph Jones:

Sometimes you need a hammer, sometimes you need a scalpel. So this is one of those situations where a little bit of everything worked.

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Wiltse Walson family and their Children at home.

Mark:

My daughter is getting scholarship offers from colleges now. My 15 year old just picked up his grades. He went from a low D, he’s up to a B now. I’m proud of them both their both doing excellent, excellent.

My daughter told me the other day, she said you know what? I would have never guessed that you would have made it this far. I mean straight you know what I mean? She said I’m so proud of you.

Jennifer:

My future is bright. (edit) For eight years all I wanted was a family. And we made it.

Mark:

Granted there is going to be people that aren’t going to want your help and they’re not going to give you an easy road to doing it. And sometimes you are going to have to do extreme things to get them to listen, or it may not work… You can’t help everybody. All you can do is do your best. But just remember that everybody out there is not the same. “Cuz if we wouldn’t have happened on our case worker like we have, God knows where we would have been.

Two shot narrators

John:

The workers you have met today, Monica and I all have one thing in common.  We are genuinely committed to making Arizona a better place for children and families.

Monica:

So now you have a decision to make. Is this job a good fit for your skills and temperament? If not, then it won’t be a good fit for us, or for the children and families we serve.

So please, carefully consider what you have heard today. If you decide this isn’t the career for you, we truly wish you well in whatever direction you decide to take.

John:

However if you are ready to accept the challenge, we at Child Protective Services look forward to working with you. For us, the rewards of that come from dedication and commitment make it all worthwhile.

Michelle Orozco:

As a case manager, working with these families, I knew these families depended on me. And I was very committed to these families and very committed to the department. And it kills me to see case managers come into this job, start working with a family and figure out that this is not the job for them and leave. Because you ultimately leave these families hanging

Ursula Garza:

When… people view you working for CPS per se, it’s not always a kind view. And I believe that we as individuals working for CPS can turn that around by showing others that we are accountable, that we are responsible that we are caring.

Michelle Orozco:

If somebody came to me and said “I’m thinking about becoming a CPS case manager, what do you think?” My first response would be are you committed to this? Are you willing to take on the responsibility? Are you willing to take on a job where you may be blamed for a lot of things and not receive the thanks and the praise for the things that you do.

Michelle Orozco (continued):

Are you willing to be strong enough to get through the rocky times? And are you willing to work with these families, deal with sometimes verbal abuse, deal with putting yourself in very difficult situations and sometimes very harmful situations. If you are willing to commit to something like that, and to commit to children and families, then this is the job for you. If your not, its not going to work.

Ursula Garza:
I used to say that I would never work for CPS. And I actually love my job.

Teri Novackek:

…It takes a strong stomach and a strong heart to do the job. But that in the long run it’s very worth while, that kids lives are changed and made better as a result.

Ursula Garza:

For me it’s a passion. For me its about caring. And I love a challenge.

Maxine Bingham:

I’m doing the right job and doing the right thing because I think all you’re good days outweigh your bad days. And if you have one family that you know you have made a difference in their lives, then that’s all you need is just one family that you know that its OK.

Sarah Opuroku:

…People always say you know one person can’t make a difference. But you can. A person can make a huge difference. And not just in this family’s life, but in everything you do with CPS and your involvement. It’s a great, great big impact.

Fade to black

 

Credits

 

 

 

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