Why Are Poor Parents Often Assumed to be Neglectful Parents?

A black and white photo of a young African boy. Although people think of poverty as something that happens in the third world, it's right here too.
In Michigan, there are 1,134,895 families with 2,172,985 children. 44% of those children live in low-income families, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty.

Stop and think about it. A kid without a coat in winter could be neglected by their parents. Or they could be from a poor family who is struggling to keep the lights on and food on the table. Coats aren’t cheap (even second-hand ones can be pricey!). So which is it? And what should you do about it? Should you call CPS and report a child who may be neglected? Should you hope that if the family is just struggling financially they’ll just be able to explain their money concerns to CPS and the agency will say “Oh okay, sorry to have bothered you!”. Surely you know it doesn’t work like that!

Once CPS gets involved, everything gets complicated!

Poverty makes it extremely difficult for parents and caregivers to provide for their kids The inability to meet basic needs, which often gets mistaken for neglect, or bad parenting, often gets reported to CPS by well-meaning members of the community. But CPS workers aren’t the fairy godmothers that many people assume them to be. They don’t just show up, wave their magic wands to keep the heat on a little longer, and point that hungry family in the direction of the nearest food bank. They “investigate”. And as you can imagine, that can lead to allegations of child abuse, invasive investigations, and unnecessary criminal charges. 

CPS isn’t focused on getting poor people what they need to succeed

The idea that CPS workers will simply provide a family with what they need, or help them access the services and benefits available to them without also intervening in their lives in some way, is a myth. In most cases, when CPS workers arrive and discover a family with an empty pantry, or water that’s been turned off, they don’t just help them get what they need. If they recommend services, it’s usually parenting classes, or something similar that overworked single moms and dads can barely make time for. But if you don’t participate in the “services” CPS recommends, they may just decide you’re not a good parent and try to take your kids away… 

No one should be punished for being poor!

In the end, poor families seem to have more interactions with CPS than families who can afford all of the basics. Essentially, that means poor families end up being punished by the state for being poor, while the middle class and wealthy families are able to avoid all that horror simply by virtue of having money. It’s just one more way that inequality persists in our society when helping people get a leg up actually costs less and has better results. There are a lot of helpful charities doing great work in our communities, but not every family knows about them or knows how to access what’s being offered. 

Defending yourself and your children against CPS requires the help of experts

The notion that children should not be torn from their families simply because they’re poor, may seem obvious. And yet in recent years, many parents have had to fight the state in order to keep their kids, simply because they suffered financial hardship. Poverty makes life so much harder already, and it should have nothing to do with a person’s right to parent. It may seem ridiculous to you and to us, but sometimes the only thing standing between parents and CPS overreach is a fearless CPS defense attorney. So if CPS has arrived on your doorstep, making accusations about your parenting, call us at 866 766 5245. We’re here for you, 24/7.

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