Remember that old cop show Dragnet that was on television 40 to 50 years ago. If you aren’t old enough to remember, sorry, you missed out. Each episode started with the message, “The story you are about to see is true; the names have been changed to protect the innocent?”
Keep that in mind as you read through this group of situations that Polk County social workers have had to assess. There are no names, locations or anything else to identify any of those involved but the reports are real and, sad to say, are not that uncommon.
At 4:30 p.m. Law enforcement requested assistance due to a man who lives in (a homeless facility) with three children, ages 7, 3 and 2. The man was going to be arrested and the children needed to go to foster care. He is the father of only one of the children.
We located one mom, who lives in Stearns County. A week later, we transported her child, 7, down to her. The other mother, who lives in (blank) county, didn’t want to pick up her children. Two weeks later, we were contacted by that (blank) County Social Services who reported that the mom had another child (8 years old) that had been removed from her care.
We recently received reports that the 3-year-old was sexually abused at a different homeless care shelter and that two of the children had been observed touching each other sexually. Parents have a history of domestic abuse, chemical dependency, mental health issues and a history of moving to different homeless shelters. Kids had lice.
At 3:25 p.m. The school social worker reported a 15-year-old female was scared to go home today because her dad and brother beat her up. She had a lump on her head. Youth also reported her brother touches her sexually and forces her to give him oral sex. The youth was placed in foster care and remains in foster care.
On (date omitted), we were requested to assist law enforcement on a child protection report of a messy home. Law enforcement indicated that when responding for another matter, they found the home to be in very poor condition. They indicated that the smell was unbearable and that at this time placement would be needed. Social worker stated it was a sour, acidy smell that burned your nostrils. Social worker looked down and was standing in a slew of unidentifiable liquid with chunks in it.
Social worker set her hand on the arm of the sofa and the officer yelled, “nooooo!” It had a bottle of something gooey spilled all over it that was oozing down to another encrusted area of what appeared to be a chicken pot pie with a “Polly pocket” type doll standing in it. The officers kept excusing themselves to go out in the hall and breathe.
Page 2 of 2 - The closets were three-quarters full of debris and the doors were either broken or hanging. Social worker attempted to look into a closet and the door fell towards her and she had to catch herself on a wall, which was covered in fruit flies that scattered. The bathroom was almost inhabitable except for what she thought was a banana and then realized that it was a just a pile of smeared poop. There were several razors on several surfaces that were accessible to a child.
In two bedrooms there were soiled rolled up diapers. There was foodstuff in every room in various stages of being eaten. There were open bags of Cheetos and a partially eaten pizza plus other fast food smashed into the carpet. The middle room appeared to be the designated smoking room and there was a big TV screen at the end of the unmade mattress amid ashtrays, children’s toys, and discarded food. The stove had burners removed and food burnt onto the surface. The sink had been drained but a residue of sludge remained. Garbage was contained in Hugo’s bags, green garbage bags or not contained. In the living area was a mattress with no bedding and another big screen TV. There was nowhere to sit on any surface because it was covered in garbage. Arrangements were made for the 2-year-old to stay with informal supports until the home can be cleaned.
These are but a few of the situations that social workers, law enforcement, school teachers, physical and mental health care professionals, the court, and others in public service deal with on a too regular basis.
While many of us have been known to complain about the cost of services for the loafers, freeloaders, drug addicts, criminals, etc., there is another side to the story. The people who are affected and/or abused — most of them are kids — really need help.
Those who try to fill that role are to be commended. The rest of us need to thank our lucky stars if we aren’t some how involved with an “issue” and to be supportive of the people who try to make things better.
I’m sorry if this has made some young person think twice about becoming a social worker. There is a real need for people willing to do this work and when it turns out for the better there has to be a lot of satisfaction.
Thoughts expressed in this column are those of the author and are not necessarily a reflection of the opinions of the other members of the Polk County Board of Commissioners.