Des Moines Public Safety Officer 911

CPS vs DHS

By Dave Brown, DMPD Retired

"CPS" vs "DHS"

When I joined the police department in 1974, it was not unusual for us to receive calls from our dispatch office directing us to go to a specific location -usually a parking lot to meet with "CPS".  CPS stood for Child Protective Services.  They were an agency of The State of Iowa.

     We would proceed as directed to the appointed location.  There we would be informed of a specific address they wanted to go to for the purpose of checking the welfare of a child or sometimes multiple children.  Our presence was needed because sometimes they were walking into a potential violent confrontation.  We had absolutely no problems in assisting this agency.  If there is anything that all cops share in common it is a desire to protect the welfare of all children.  At that time the employees of CPS also had the desire, drive and dedication to make that the primary objective.

     In accompanying these representatives, our purpose was merely a backup assistance for them should it be necessary.  They took the lead in the matter at hand.  These people demonstrated a "command presence" in their bearing.  When they knocked on a door, they did so with force and authority.  The person on the other side of the door should have had absolutely no doubt that there was someone knocking that was there on official/important business.  When CPS talked to the people who were in charge of the children at alleged risk, they left no doubt that they were knowledgeable and in charge.

     They investigated.  They also interviewed potential victims and those responsible of insuring the welfare of the children involved.  Sometimes the children were removed from the home.  Sometimes a strong warning was issued and documented.  Documentation, demeanor and follow-up insured compliance from the responsible party.  Again they left no doubt as to who was in charge and that they meant business in what they said and did,

     Today it sounds like when people from DHS (Department of Human Services) go out on a welfare check on a child that "tap" on the door and pray no one answers.  Currently they are not aggressive in investigating complaints on the welfare of children.  They are afraid of making contact with someone because they might have to generate some paperwork.  God forbid, they might have to do their job even if that job means offending someone.  But, when they are supposedly charged with the responsibility of defending children offending someone's feeling should be the least of their concern.

     In my opinion, for budget purposes that the former CPS was consumed by a bureaucratic vacuum, placed in a blender and came out as part of DHS.  And the people who are performing these welfare checks are not primarily dedicated to the welfare of children.  In other words I think they have other responsibilities in addition to welfare checks on children.  It's kind of like, let's have police officers and fire fighters assigned to the parks department too.  So when they are not chasing bad guys or fighting fires they can mow grass and plant flowers.  That eliminates the need to hire additional personnel to take care of our parks.

     When people are charged with investigating the welfare of children, that should be their only mission.  They should have no other focus in their job description.  When that is the case, those people will not have time constraints due to other matters unrelated to the welfare of children which inhibits performance of their important responsibilities -the children of this State.

David F. Brown

DMPD Retired

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