Updated- Child (or agency) Protection?
By Rich Rigney, (former) CPS Social Worker
February 28, 2013

Sheep to be ShearedIn 2007 the State of Oregon implemented the Oregon Safety Model, which required Child Welfare workers to follow much more specific criteria when removing children and reuniting families.

Since beginning my CPS career in California in 2003, having grown increasingly concerned with the inconsistent and capricious manner in which families in the Child Protection system were treated, I had great hopes that this new model would finally provide caseworkers the guidelines necessary to treat each family fairly and consistently.

It became clear to me in the following months that my branch of Child Welfare was philosophically opposed to the Oregon Safety Model and had no intention of following it or even allowing it.

I published an article on the American Family Rights Association website four years ago for the sole purpose of promulgating the model, not simply because we are required to use it, but because I agree with the experts that it truly does help children and families.

Since this original endorsement of the plan DHS Child Welfare employees are required to use, and my subsequent attempts to implement this plan in practice, DHS was on a mission to fire me.

Finally, following a four-year barrage of petty and disparately applied disciplinary actions, I was fired on my birthday, September 11, 2012. I guess, given four years, even a government agency can fire anyone under any guise or pretense.

The most ironic factor in my dismissal is that it began because I was the only one attempting to follow policy.

It has become abundantly clear to me after spending a dozen years in CPS in two states; much independent study of the agency nationally, and myriad and sundry concerted individual efforts to improve the agency from the trenches to no avail, that “Child Protective Services” is a government agency that cannot be improved from within.

In short, this is because those CPS workers and supervisors who have lengthy careers care more about their own jobs than they do about the best interests of children and families.

This is exactly what the agency requires because it protects the agency itself. Self-preservation is a natural human defense mechanism and I understand it, just as I understand DHS not wanting to be on the front page of the Oregonian due to a child death. But only to a point.

Not to the extent, however, that I am willing to acquiesce to the corruption of an agency that does more harm than good for children and families.

So, solely in the interests of the children and families of Coos County, Oregon I published my article on the internet. Once the agency successfully punished me for exercising my free speech rights, I did not publish anything again. My crime since that time was in simply attempting to daily, apply in practice the very model DHS is required to use.

Because this model makes the agency vulnerable, despite its being in the best interests of children and families, I was daily prevented from implementing the model and was ultimately fired for not acquiescing to the agency’s prohibition.

I was never insubordinate or inappropriate with clients or community partners.

Indeed, I never disregarded the agency’s interests except where those interests were wantonly unethical or were, in fact, crimes against our clientele: children and their families. Given that Oregon DHS-Child Welfare obviously has no intention to follow their own rules, the agency has no use for fair-minded and outspoken child advocates like myself.

The State of Oregon has robbed me of a 15-year career due to their corruption. Ironically, placing paramount importance on the welfare of children and families was exactly what cost me my career in child welfare.

From a “big-picture” perspective, the impetus for my termination was two-fold : 

1.     I was following DHS policy (i.e. The Oregon Safety Model, which I was forbidden to implement on many occasions).

2.      I have always helped people in spite of inherent deficits in bureaucracy that make this a nearly impossible endeavor. 

My story is only one vignette in a malaise of corruption that is this government agency that our tax dollars support. The child welfare system is a kind of "reverse-Robin-Hood" of human trafficking: robbing (children) from the poor and giving (children) to the "rich" (or, at least, middle class).

Rich Rigney
(former) CPS Social Worker