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The Role of First Responders in Child Maltreatment Cases: Disaster and Nondisaster Situations
Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, Children's Bureau. Cage, Richard., Salus, Marsha K.|
|Year Published: 2010|
Home Visit Safety Tips1
Families experiencing multiple issues (e.g., substance abuse, mental health problems, domestic violence, criminal behavior) can pose dangers for first responders going into homes to respond to cases that may involve child maltreatment. While on a home visit, first responders—particularly those who are not law enforcement officers—should remember the following safety tips:
- Ensure that the CPS supervisor knows the time and place of the appointment and the expected time of return.
- Dress appropriately and in a manner that blends into the community.
- Walk close to buildings or close to the curb in an effort to have at least one safe side. Stay away from bushes, alleys, and dark corners, if possible.
- Know the route in and out of the area by examining a map or by talking with others beforehand. Do not wander or appear lost or confused.
- Park as close to the home as possible and in a way that helps ensure an easy exit. Keep the car keys in hand while entering and exiting the home so they are easily available.
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Enter and leave homes carefully, noticing doors, windows, neighbors, loiterers, and anything or anyone that may be a risk to safety.
- If unsure of the safety or surroundings of the location, move to another spot by suggesting taking a break or getting a cup of coffee and finish talking there.
- Attempt to keep a clear path to an exit.
- Be aware of dogs that may pose a threat.
- Follow intuition and take action if feeling afraid or threatened. Leave the home or call 911 if necessary.
- Have access, if possible, to technology that may assist with safety issues (e.g., GPS systems, cell phones).
In cases where drugs and alcohol may be an issue in the family or the surrounding community:
- Go to the home with another caseworker or law enforcement officer, particularly in an area known for drug dealing.
- Know the local signs that indicate a drug deal is occurring. In such situations, do not enter the home without law enforcement personnel.
- Be aware of homes or other living environments that may be used as a clandestine drug factory. Do not attempt to investigate such places alone, and immediately contact law enforcement if such a lab is suspected. Anyone without proper training and protective gear should stay at least 500 feet away from any suspected laboratory. The following are signs of a possible lab:
- Strong or unusual chemical odors
- Laboratory equipment, such as glass tubes, beakers, funnels, and Bunsen burners
- Chemical drums or cans in the yard
- A high volume of automobile or foot traffic, particularly at odd hours
- New, high fences with no visible livestock or other animals.
- If one or both parents appear to be intoxicated, high, incoherent, or passed out, ensure the safety and supervision of the children, which may require their immediate removal from the home. Once that has been accomplished, it is appropriate to reschedule the appointment. It may be appropriate to call the supervisor for guidance.
1California Attorney General's Office, Crime and Violence Prevention Center. (n.d.).Recognizing clandestine meth labs [On-line]. Available: http://www.stopdrugs.org/recognizinglabs.html; KCI The Anti-Meth Site. (n.d.). Is there a meth lab cookin' in your neighborhood? [On-line]. Available: http://www.kci.org/meth_info/neighborhood_lab.htm; Salus, M. K. (2004). Supervising child protective services caseworkers [On-line]. Available: http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/usermanuals/supercps/supercps.pdf.
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