Child Protective Services agents can usually tell when a case is going to be awful, but these were the cases that shocked even the most experienced agents. These are the cases that haunt them, even years after the events took place.
"I was a case manager for CPS. I had a toddler on my caseload who came into care because of a severe beating that left her with a skull fracture and two broken femur bones. She was in a full body cast. She was in medical foster care. The mission of the agency was to have to children reunify with the parents. So, the parents had to complete a case plan and attend court hearings. It took a while, but the parents completed the case plan and the child was reunified. During this time mom became pregnant again with a baby boy. She delivered around the same time the reunification occurred. The parents found the baby boy dead one morning. He was 6 weeks old, the same age his sister was when she came into care. And he had the same injuries. Before the reunification and the birth, I did everything I could to prevent either child from going back to that house. I even begged and cried in court. Dad was a suspect, but there was not enough evidence. He was a true monster. I waited two weeks. Put in my notice and walked out."
"I worked for a non-profit emergency shelter, for children who had been abandoned, neglected or abused. Mind you, I worked at this shelter 10+ years ago, so the details are a bit fuzzy. I got a call one night (worked graveyard) about two male siblings coming in. They had been found and picked up at a motel. The oldest was eleven, and the other was nine. I started reading their case file, and there's a long abuse/neglect history. After being with us a few days, the eleven-year-old was showing increased signs of PTSD, hypervigilance, paranoid, aggressive. He ended up pulling a knife on another one of the kids in the shelter because they came up from behind and grabbed him.
Apparently, the mom who was a user was selling the 11-year-old out to Johns so she could get money/paraphernalia. He would stay awake all night in the motel while she was out of it to make sure none of the Johns came back to hurt her or his younger brother. By the time the kid turned twelve, he had been expelled from three different elementary schools and was banned from that particular school district. Eventually, mom lost custody and the last I heard is they were placed in foster care."
"First, a little backstory info: I had a case with a 7-year-old boy who needed a breathing apparatus inserted into his nose to help him breathe. Basically, the apparatus malfunctioned one day and severely burned his nose to the point where he had skin grafts to his nose.
The kid's mom would get $4,000 - $6,000 every month as a result of the lawsuit/settlement/whatever the legal aspect was.
So one day, I get a case alleging the mother is abusing illegal substances with her boyfriend with the kid in the home. After investigating, I found out she would use the bare minimum of that $4,000 - $6,000 for food every month and spend the rest on illegal substances for herself and her boyfriend. The kid could articulate how his mom and the boyfriend would roll and smoke stuff, as well as inject themselves. They would often be passed out or be completely gone from reality while he would just play video games in the home.
To end on a positive note, I placed the boy in foster care, and last I heard he was doing really well! His resiliency was amazing, and he had such a positive attitude despite his crappy home environment. It still makes me sick to this day that this mom was taking advantage of her son's medical issue to get feed her addiction. Absolutely sickening."
"Before I worked as a social worker, I was direct care staff at a group home for teenage girls. One girl (B) was battling several types of addiction. She was only 13 years old at the time and had been placed with us through her treatment program. She lived about 40 minutes away from the group home, and the goal was to remove her access to her addictions while providing support.
B and I had discussed her major triggers for using and she mentioned her relationship with her mother was a major stressor. That night, I heard firsthand how bad things were. During a phone call (on speaker so we could monitor), I listened to this woman berate her daughter for no reason. I stepped in and ended the call as B ran upstairs to her room. The mother called back and continued her rant. I handed the phone to my supervisor and went to find B. I found her in her closet, crying on the floor. She didn't want to talk, but she leaned on me and cried.
I gave her some space and went back downstairs to talk to my supervisor. Within a few minutes, B had left the group home. She had no stop order (we couldn't physically stop her from leaving), and she apologized as she ran off. We called the police and reported her AWOL. When I left that night, she hadn't returned.
The following day, I got to the group home and was happy to see B had come back on her own. We notified her mom of her return. Mom called the town police and demanded B come home. She and the officers arrived and B refused to go. Mom tells B in front of everyone that she 'won't lock you in your room as long' and 'I promise that I'll feed you this time.'
We were shocked but no one had any legal power to refuse B going back to this horrible situation. We were all powerless as she left back into the care of her abusive mother.
B left me a poem that I still have nearly 12 years later. My heart hurts just wondering what happened to her. No one heard from her after that day."
"It was one of the first cases I investigated, but it involved a child death.
There was actually another worker assigned to take the Priority 1 cases that day, but she was stuck out in the boonies working another emergency when we got the call. A 2-year-old child had been brought to the emergency room by her mother. The child was cold and blue and she had a living sister, 3 years old. I had just been cleared to take P1s and my unit supervisor sent me to start working the case. She also called the region to send us a Special Investigator (a CPS Investigator with police or military experience - they have special privileges in their work).
By the time we got the report, police were already questioning the mother. The mother refused to speak English during the interview and she had her friend translate for us.
The mom claimed the child had been jumping on the bed with her sister when she fell off the bed and hit her head on the floor. She was vomiting later in the evening and when the mom checked in on her the next day, the child was dead.
Super sketchy as preliminary reports showed no head injuries.
We went to the house to investigate the scene with the police and the mom and everything had been stripped bare - all the furniture and family possessions gone. It smelled strongly of bleach. It was the first time I had a close look at the mom and she had bruising on her neck, a huge and fresh bruise under her chin, and her eye was swollen. She claimed she slipped and hit her chin on the kitchen counter.
Anyway, in the following days, we learned the truth. A year prior, CPS investigated the family when it came out that mom's boyfriend was abusing the children (pulling their hair out, slapping them, etc.) The Department required the mom to end her relationship with the boyfriend, which she did, and provided therapeutic services for the family. But a few months after CPS left, the boyfriend came back to the home.
The night of the 2-year-old's death, she messed her pants while the boyfriend was watching a sports game. He got angry and kicked her in the stomach, but he kicked her in the stomach so hard, it almost lacerated her liver in two. The mom was correct in that the child had been vomiting and sick the night before her death. This child spent her last hours on Earth suffering a painful death.
The mom had waited so long to take the little girl to the hospital because she wanted to give the boyfriend lead time to escape. He ended up going to Mexico, where he was later found, brought back and charged for his crime. Both he and the mom are now in prison.
The little girl's big sister was reunited with their biological father, who had been spending the past few years trying to find the girls. He was inconsolable with the news.
It was, by far, the worst case I have ever worked. Child death cases always are. As an employee with CPS, your job is to protect children and when you work a case with a dead child, you feel so useless, so helpless."
"Back in my mid-late 20s, I worked as a CPS agent. Specifically, I was the type to be sent to scope out living areas to see if it was suitable for the child. I think the worst living situation I've seen was this:
So, I got called to this place. The report states that the house this family is living in isn't suitable for the child. It's pretty vague (as they tend to be on my end), so I go to the place. It's a really small house in Middle of Nowhere, TX. This house looked like it had been abandoned for the last 100 years. It was essentially just the husk of a house. Rotting wood, barely stable. There isn't really a front door (or front wall), so I let myself in. I'm really confused because there's no way anyone could live here. There's no cars, no signs of life.
I decide to walk around the outside of the house to make sure. In the distance, I can see something that doesn't look like it belongs in a Texas desert. I walk towards it, a good mile away. I get closer and notice that it's a tent! Actually, it's three tents all next to each other. Crappy tents at that. There's a bicycle leaned against one of them that's missing a wheel. There's trash EVERYWHERE, plenty of bottles, food wrappers, needles and what appears to be used toilet paper. The area smelled atrocious. I approached the front of the biggest tent and could hear people's voices coming from it. The voices had thick southern accents, and they sounded 'weak,' for lack of a better word. I could only make out two distinct voices, they both sound like adults. I stood in front of the tent and just said 'Hello, anybody home?'
I understandably scared them, because I heard, 'WHAT THE EFF?' come from the inside of the tent. A very skinny looking man, likely in his late 20s, unzips the tent. He was completely naked, and was holding a small, beat up kitchen knife. He looked high out of his mind. He asked, very politely, 'Who the eff are you?' From inside the tent, I could see that there was a woman crouched in the corner of the tent, also high out of her mind. I couldn't even tell if she was fully conscious, but the baby she was nursing certainly was.
I said, 'Hello, my name is agent (name), and I work with (city) Youth Protection Services. I've been called here about a poor living situation regarding children. Sir, do you have any children here with you?'
I was extremely scared at this point as I was in the middle of the desert and the only item of self-defense I had was a Taser. I tried to keep my composure though.
He lowered his knife and stepped out of the tent still completely naked. He said, 'Shoot man, thought you were here with the government here to take my kids and guns away. I'll give ya a tour of the place if you want.'
I was dumbfounded at this point, but I follow him as he walked over to unzip one of the other tents. Inside, I saw two children. One was unresponsive, lying face down in the corner of the tent, looks to be around 5-6 years old. The other one looks to be around 8-9 and is laying in the other corner playing with a tape Walkman without a tape or headphones in it (these were obsolete even back when this happened). I asked him if it was okay to ask his kids a few questions. He said, 'They don't talk much, but sure.'
I poked my head into the tent and asked the kid playing with the walkman, 'Hey, what's your name?' He didn't answer. I asked his assumed father if it's alright if I tap him on the shoulder to get his attention. He said sure, so I did. The kid looked at me with a blank expression on his face. I could immediately tell that this kid had severe developmental problems. I asked, 'Hey friend, what's your name?' He didn't respond.
I then tapped the other kid who's laying face down on a blanket. He turned over and his face was completely covered in bruises. Looked like he straight up went through a fight club. I asked him what his name was. He said, 'Devin.' I asked him where all of the bruises came from. He looked at his dad, then went back to going face down into the blanket and started sobbing. I couldn't get his attention anymore.
I stood up from the tent and looked at the father. I asked him what was in the other tent. We started walking over to it. As we did, I noticed this horrible smell coming from it. He unzipped it and I saw a girl, couldn't have been older than 4. There is a corner of the tent that is lower than the rest of it - it is full of urine. Like, to ground level just full of urine. She's in the corner of the tent playing with some dolls. I stand up, tell the man that I'll be right back, just have to grab something from my car.
I returned to my car and called the local police. They asked if I felt safe stalling until the police showed up. I said yes.
I talked to the father about not much in particular. I asked him why he thought the government was coming for his kids and guns. He went on this long incoherent rant about however since he moved here, he feared that he was going to lose his guns. I asked him where he kept the guns, he said he kept them under the floorboards in the rotting house. Around this time, the police showed up. Three patrol cars full of cops drove out to the tents. The man didn't even turn around or notice until one of the officers told us to put our hands up and drop to our knees.
They got processed, the kids get put in foster care. As it turns out, the couple were biological siblings and heavy users."
"I had a report about an incorrigible child. Pretty normal stuff, parents tried everything but they can not control their child and are worried about the safety of the other children.
This particular case was slightly different. The child and her two siblings were adopted by their grandparents. The grandparents stated that the one child, let's say her name was Ellen, was threatening to hurt her sibling and actually went as far to chase him around with a knife. Ellen was a 12-year-old at the time of this report.
After further investigation and services with the family, I learned the full reason for the original adoption. When Ellen was younger, about 6, she was with her mother and she was being abused by the mother's boyfriend. When Ellen's mother found out about the abuse, she murdered the boyfriend in front of Ellen and had Ellen help her clean up the mess.
Now comes the grandparents unable to figure out why Ellen is troubled now.
After talking to Ellen more, she was angry at her younger sibling for being 'normal' as he was also present for the murder but too young to remember.
As I last keep up with the family, the grandparent and siblings left Ellen behind and moved to another state. Ellen is currently living with a foster family and is doing much better."
"First case I went on during training.
Showed up at a house in a trashy town and instantly we were verbally assaulted by an obese, belligerent lady. This was the mom and she was being accused of neglecting her children by not caring for their hygienic needs and not having any food.
We told her we needed to chat with the kids alone, but she refused and stood by as we started talking. She kept interrupting and yelling whenever we asked anything. My trainer called the cops because she could tell the situation was escalating quickly and we needed to talk to the kids.
Cops showed up, mom sort of calmed down, and we got to chat with the kids. Teenage boy was furious and refused to tell us anything useful. The two younger sisters, 8 to 11ish, don't say much, but they didn't need to say anything.
The little girls had nits in their hair so bad, their scalp was bald and irritated on the back of their heads below the ears. Their hair was matted and basically one big dreadlock. These were white people, so matting the hair like that is hard.
When it's clear that the tide is turning against the mom, she yelled at the kids to run away and they followed orders. We spent the next hour trying to find the kids and then trying to get them away from the mom who had huddled them into a neighbor's yard in a corner.
We got the kids back to a foster care agency office, no family was available to take the kids. And this was when my heart broke. The workers sat the girls on a chair over a large plastic sheet and start removing the nits with a nit brush. I watched as hundreds and hundreds of dead/living nits fall to the plastic under the girls and they started to cry because of it hurting. The workers were as gentle as possible, but they had to have been infested for months, if not longer.
This is when I totally broke down and left the room and had to collect myself. It turned out the mom had significant mental health needs she wasn't caring for and had been ignored by family for years, so no one knew what was going on. School officials claimed they didn't notice anything, but we suspected the kids weren't coming in and the school liked it that way."
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"I have a couple of cases I still think about, but one stands out above the rest.
I responded to a priority one investigation for a 13-year-old boy who is acting out physically and may have perped on his 6-year-old sister. I respond and met with the parents at a doctor's appointment. The parents were supportive and protective of both children and it came to light the boy had some mental health issues and they were seeking help. I briefly spoke with the 6-year-old and she made an outcry of abuse. At this point, I have to terminate the interview and schedule a forensic interview. Law enforcement is contacted and an internal exam and kit were requested. During the exam, the girl freaked and wouldn't let the docs pull her pants down.
At this time, all we could do was help the family find a treatment center or place the boy with family who do not have kids in the home. During the interview with the boy, I noticed he was shy, quiet, and withdrawn. He wouldn't look me in the eyes, and it was almost impossible for me to establish any rapport. Finally, he told me he enjoyed drawing, so I asked to see some of his drawings. He showed me very good, yet graphic, drawings. He had drawings of dragons eating and dismembering people. I noticed a change in his personality, he voice got deeper, louder. He began to sit up and look me in the eyes while talking. He seemed almost aggressive. He even made a statement about touching himself six times a day. We placed the boy with his grandparents and waited for the forensic interview.
During the forensic interview, the girl made another outcry of abuse. She told us about how her brother sneaks into her room late at night and pokes her private parts with something that hurts. She went on to say this poking happens inside of her body, not outside. She then describes a knife.
Over the course of time from the case being initiated and now, both parents have been searching for a mental hospital or treatment center for the boy to go to, but because of their insurance they can't afford any, and the only way for the state to offer the help was to take custody of the child, which mom and dad don't want because, although he is sick and needs help, he's still their son.
After about a week with his grandparents, the boy started talking about wanting to kill himself and everyone around him. He even had a plan. This was a big break for the family because now a mental hospital has to accept him. He was placed in a facility and diagnosed with a few different disorders, all of which explained his behaviors. During his stay at the facility, he even admitted to everything his sister described.
I transferred the case to a family based safety services so the family could receive counseling, and the little girl would get all the help she needed. I have to add that the dad was missing both legs from an injury in Iraq, and during the investigation the little girl would sit next to me, and follow me around, refusing to leave my side. When I said goodbye to her for the last time, she started crying and kept saying who will protect me now?
I left their house, took my 6'5" 290lbs self to an empty parking lot and just sat in silence for a few minutes. I pulled myself together, checked my email and saw a new priority one investigation waiting, so I responded to that. I left a few weeks later, and never got any answers as to what happened to that family or little girl, but I hope it's a happy ending for that family."
"The one that hit me the hardest was before I actually started going out on my own and was shadowing the after hours team. We got a call from a different state worker about a family who had moved to our state and we needed to follow up.
The family had six kids, and the barely 12-year-old girl in the family already had a police record for touching other kids. It was heartbreaking. It was a blended family, and the mom (who was the biological parent of the girl), believed that the girl had been exposed to adult entertainment and other adult things by her biological dad.
Anyway, one night, one of the kids said, '[Girl's Name] touched my private parts.' The parents, shocked, talked to each kid individually where they all disclosed that she had touched them. Not knowing how to handle it, they called CPS in their state for help. CPS came out, called the cops, and for reasons that weren't clear to me, the child was placed on the registry by a judge. In my experience, usually they try inpatient and other therapies before going that route, but apparently that state and judge did things differently.
So, when the family moved to our state, we had to go out to make sure the family was following adequate guidelines. For example, the girl was not allowed to be alone with her siblings. She couldn't swim in the pool at the same time as her siblings. She couldn't go to school or the park or birthday parties because she was a registered offender. Her siblings couldn't have friends over.
She was such a sweet kid. It really was such a sad situation. She told us she wanted to be a fashion designer and her favorite thing to do was play Xbox with her siblings. All the kids were in therapy, and they appeared to harbor no ill-will toward her.
I think about this case a lot and I always wonder what happened to their family."