Off-Topic: Why I Work for CPS

CPS has been plastered all over the news lately. From headlines about children dying to caseworker turnover, there seems to be no end in sight to the negative media attention that CPS is getting in Texas right now. People have every reason to be outraged, but here is my argument:

I work for CPS because I am a strong enough person to handle it. Every day I talk to children about abuse and neglect, and every now and then I hear some god awful stories. I work for CPS because through the system, I have the power to do something about those horror stories. Through CPS, I can keep families together and have the opportunity to educate parents. I work for CPS because so many other people can’t, and I love the job that I have.

That being said, people have every right to be outraged with the system. It’s flawed, as all systems are. People have every right to be upset about children dying and being beaten. It’s upsetting. We are not wired to find this behavior acceptable. What is unacceptable is people berating the system when they do not, and never will work for it. If you are not a strong enough person to do my job, please do not tell me how to do my job. Child welfare needs some serious attention and revamping, but unless you have some legitimate solutions and the funding to do so, do not tell me how to do my job. I am a human being, not a robot. Caseworkers burn out so quickly because we have incredibly high case loads, and policy changes happen frequently, making our job a little harder to do sometimes. CPS is not perfect by any means. We get a lot of things wrong, but we do a whole lot of things right too. It is impossible to catch everything, and it is difficult to prioritize cases when we have so many that need attention.

Every now and then the public gets a wind of the spirit of raising awareness, and temporarily are passionate about a cause. This is one of those moments. Unless your spirit of raising awareness turns into legitimate advocacy that calls for informed, educated, and researched change in the system, please hop off the bandwagon. Unless you have the political pull or money in your pocket to influence this change, please refrain from telling me how to do my job.

There are a lot of bad caseworkers. There are also a lot of great ones. I am blessed to work with some of the most caring people in the industry, and we do a lot of good for a lot of children. Families involved with CPS may not like us, but I sleep just fine at night knowing that I’ve helped at least 1 child in this world. The public may be demonizing us for things that we cannot always control, but please don’t forget that parents are the ones making terrible decisions, and parents are the reasons why these things are happening. CPS intervenes and we do the best we can, so unless society can once again adopt the mentality of “it takes a village”, and do it right, my job will always be necessary. No matter how much I wish it weren’t. Bringing pitchforks to the CPS party is not going to change anything. The only people that have the power to change things are employees and advocates, and the people with the money. So please, if you’re truly invested in child welfare, call for reform of the system. Not the firing of caseworkers and supervisors. Not the firing of whoever. Call for actual money to be spent to reform the system. Our children need to be kept safe. So please, by all means, help me do it. Maybe then you can tell me how to do my job.

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Check Yourself: Planned Parenthood 101

Over the last year or two there have been several attacks on planned parenthood, both violent and smear campaigns. The words ‘Planned Parenthood’ are pretty hot-button, and people don’t usually like to bring it up in casual conversation. But it’s important to know the facts about Planned Parenthood, and here they are:

In a budget allocation that Planned Parenthood released from the 2013-2014 fiscal year, it should be noted that 42% of the services that were given at clinics were in regards to STD/STI testing and treatment. The next largest allocation of services falls under providing contraception, at 34%. 11% of services were described as ‘other’ women’s health services, which can be classified as a mammogram or pap smear. 9% of services were devoted to cancer screenings and prevention. 1% of services fell under a completely separate ‘other’ category. Have you done the math? That leaves 3% of services provided as abortion services. Right, wrong, or indifferent, Planned Parenthood is not solely an abortion clinic, and appears to be doing everything in their power to educate young people and prevent them from needing an abortion in the first place. Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice is not something that I’ll be getting into this evening, but it needs to be known that these are the real allocation of services. A whopping 3% of services nation wide were dedicated to abortion. Hundreds of thousands of women received HIV tests and other STD tests. Over 1 million women received emergency contraception, which resulted in over half a million unintended pregnancies being averted. And still, only 3% of services are abortion related.

You don’t have to agree with abortion. But facts are still facts. Planned Parenthood does a whole lot more good than it does harm, and that is evident in the way that they allocate their services. At Planned Parenthood, men can receive a vasectomy. They don’t discriminate, and are rallied around the cause of making parenthood enjoyable for those who choose to parent, and making sure that it comes at the right time for every individual who comes in their doors.

 

To be or not to be, that is the question.

After a seriously long summer filled with work, very little play, and very little posting to this blog (oops), I’ve finally come up with the inspiration to write again. I’ve been watching this nightmare of a show called “Virgin Territory”, and it’s given me a bit of inspiration. So we’re going to talk about the big V.

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First and foremost, your virginity is simply that. Your virginity. Your virginity does not define the content of your character. Simply because you have it does not mean that you are “pure” or “clean”, it simply means that you have not had sex. I understand the connotations of purity behind virginity, but it deeply disturbs me that both men and women alike are praised for being sexually “pure”, but are not pure of heart, mind, or spirit. Being a virgin does not guarantee that you’re a good person. I’ve known plenty of virgins who are terrible people, and plenty who aren’t. Please, do not wrap up your identity in the state of your virginity. It should not define who you are.

Second, your virginity is something that you hold the power over. You can choose what you do with it, but know that there are always some, no matter how big or small, emotional ramifications that come along with sex, regardless of your gender. Sex is intimate, sex is fun, and sex is special in many situations. If you wish to wait until you’re married, that’s great! If you just want to wait for the right person, that’s great! If you just want to “get rid of it”, you have the option to do that, but be aware that it may or may not be something you regret later on, and always, always, always protect yourself! Your virginity shouldn’t be something that hinders you. It shouldn’t be something that you feel an intense need to be rid of. Different people have sex at different times in their lives. And I guarantee you that if you are determined to have sex, you’ll have it. Again, the status of your virginity should not define you.

Third, you never have to do anything that you don’t want to do. (Except chores, and things like that. But you knew this.) If you get anything from this post, please know that your body is yours, and you have the right to do with it what you wish. Don’t ever let anyone pressure you into having sex if you’re not ready for it, and don’t ever let anyone tell you that your worth and your virginity are interconnected. They aren’t. Because you are a living, breathing human being, you are valuable. Because you are who you are, you are valuable. What you do with your body is your business, and yours alone. If you want to have sex, go for it! Just remember to protect yourself from pregnancy and STD’s. If you don’t want to have sex, please, don’t! No matter how you identify, no one should ever pressure you into having sex. Your buddies do not know better than you. Your girlfriends do not know better than you. Wait until you feel you’re ready.

If you can’t buy condoms, you’re probably not ready to have sex. But, as I’ve stated before, no one else can tell you when you are or aren’t ready. Prepare yourself, be aware of your states age of consent laws, and have contraceptives on hand. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do, and don’t be afraid to leave a situation you are uncomfortable with.

I’ll say it again, purely because I know so many people who have felt useless after losing their virginity, your worth and the status of your virginity are not intertwined. You are valuable and worthy of love, regardless of the choices you make regarding your body. At the end of the day, no one loves you any less simply because of what you choose to do with your body. Virgin or not, celebrate your sexuality, and do with it what you will, because it is one of the greatest gifts that life has to offer.

What If We Admitted to Children That Sex Is About Pleasure?

What If We Admitted to Children That Sex Is About Pleasure? – Pacific Standard: The Science of Society.

 

This is the best damn article about communicating to children about sex and what it should look like. The curiosity is there, ya’ll. This mom is brave enough to tell her son like it really is, and not make it a huge deal.

Can I Get You Anything? A Snack? A Condom?

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Mrs. George had the right idea when she barged in on Regina and offered a condom. She just wanted her precious daughter/maybe Satan to protect herself! So, in honor of Regina George’s mother, today we’ll be talking about condoms. It’ll be fun, I promise.

Fun fact about condoms! They are the ONLY method of birth control available on the market today that protects against STIs. They also have a fabulous benefit of preventing pregnancy. In typical use, they have a failure rate of about 18%. With perfect use, they have a failure rate of 2%. If you know how to use them correctly, your chances of getting pregnant or contracting an STI are pretty low. You can check out this handy video from Planned Parenthood on how to appropriately put one on.

 

It’s a pretty simply process that has a lot of benefits! There are also several types of condoms. Condoms with spermicide are lubricated with a chemical that kills sperm when it comes in contact with it. These are great to use for vaginal intercourse, but not so great for oral or anal sex. There are also condoms that come without spermicide. Latex condoms are the most commonly used types of condoms, and are readily available at most drug stores or grocery stores. It’s important to remember that if you’re using a latex condom, you cannot use oil-based lubricants. These might wear down the latex and cause them to break more easily. If you’re allergic to latex, you may want to switch to a female condom in preventing the contraction of an STI. Lambskin and polyurethane condoms work just as well at preventing pregnancy, but aren’t so great at preventing the spread of STIs. Female condoms are less effective at preventing pregnancy, with a 21% failure rate in typical use and a 5% failure rate in perfect use. They work by collecting the sperm and pre-ejaculate in a pouch that a woman inserts into her vagina. There’s more information here. Planned Parenthood’s website is seriously awesome, and their information is very reliable.

Monogamous or not, please please please remember to use a condom! It is the only way to prevent yourself from contracting STI’s, which can cause several health problems down the road if they’re not quickly diagnosed. On that note, get tested while you’re at it! STI’s don’t always have symptoms that accompany them. The only way to know if you have one or not is to get tested. Do it every six months, so you can catch anything that may not show up the first time.

Sorry it’s been a while since my last post! Finals have wreaked havoc upon my life, and I’m now in summer school as well. I’ll post as often as I can, my sex positive babies.

Birth Control Shaming? That’s a Thing?

Today I had my first truly overt experience with sexism/”slut shaming”/birth control shaming. I’ve made it 20 years without ever having experienced truly obvious accounts of these things. And today? Well today blew that record clear out of the water. I’ll set the stage for you:

I’m at the on-campus medical clinic because I suspect that I have an infection of some sort, so obviously I would need a round of antibiotics for an infection, right? Right. So I’m sitting in the room, when my “doctor” (I use this term very lightly) walks into the room. We cover the normal bases, and inform her that I’ve switched from birth control pills to an IUD. She says to me, “You’re not married. You don’t have kids. Why would you need an IUD?”

Pause. What? Yes, this really happened. This isn’t 1950 sweetheart, I don’t need anyone to tell me what kinds of birth control I can and cannot use. I’m entitled to the birth control of my choosing, and I just so happened to choose this one. But wait, there’s more! She tests me for an infection, and determines that I do in fact have one and I’ll need antibiotics. She says to me, “I want to test for pregnancy, because I don’t want any antibiotics harming a baby since I think you could be pregnant. Ok?”

I’m sure the look on my face was a mixture of confusion and utter disbelief for how completely terribly this woman was treating me. First of all, IUD failure rates are extremely low. Less than 1% annually. Second, I….I’m not pregnant. I know this. I’m not even concerned about this. So why are you testing me for something that first of all is super unlikely, and second of all I know I’m not?

So she tests for it. Surprise, surprise, I’m not pregnant. Thanks for telling me something I already know. She walks in saying, “It was negative. Not that you were really concerned about it.” Seriously, lady?

This entire interaction blew my mind. This was the first overt experience of, I guess “birth control shaming” that I’ve ever experienced. Sure, most women get strange looks when they take the Pill in public. Sure, some people think it’s not an acceptable thing to discuss or even acknowledge. That’s a more common form of oppression and silencing the thoughts and opinions of women. But this? I’ve never experienced something like that before, that was so blatantly condemning my choice. Don’t like my choice? Don’t say anything. Didn’t your mother teach you that if you have nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all? It’s a sad world when a young woman is condemned by a health “professional” for her choice in birth control. There are so many good reasons to be on birth control, so why do people assume that it’s solely for contraceptive purposes? 6/10 women are on birth control for the health benefits. The Pill decreases the likelihood of gynecological cancers, decreases the occurrence of acne, eases the pain of periods and cramps, and so many other things! There is nothing wrong with a woman choosing the Pill, the shot, and IUD, or any other form of birth control that she feel suits her best. Why on earth are we shaming people for making a choice that makes their lives easier? For making a choice that makes their lives easier to plan? For making a choice that practically eliminates consequences of actions that people, by nature, take?

I’ve been upset about it all day. But now I’m just sad for her. Sad that she can’t see past her own judgments and  juvenile words that serve no purpose aside from hurting another person. My entire point in life, my main goal, is to perpetuate a culture where people are not devalued for the choices that they make regarding their sexuality. My point is that you cannot impose your morals and thoughts on to other people. If she thinks birth control should be a topic only held between a husband and wife that already have kids, then fine. She’s entitled to believe that. Where she went wrong was imposing those beliefs on me, and hurting me because of those beliefs. My morals and her morals likely differ. Most people have differing morals. That’s what makes life interesting, and keeps diversity alive. It’s perfectly okay to believe differently from another person. In fact, that should be encouraged! The line should be drawn when it begins to impact other people.

Birth control shame is a real thing. I can’t believe that it’s still so prevalent, but it is a real thing. Let’s stop making judgments on women based on their usage of birth control. Let’s stop making assumptions about their lives. Let’s certainly never treat them the way that this “doctor” treated me today. Professionalism is important. She was unprofessional at catastrophic levels. If your health professional ever treats you like this, please, change your doctor! It’s not worth someone denying you something that is fully in the realm of possibility for you to receive. Do your research, know your stuff, and stand your ground. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re wrong for having your own best interest in mind.

I Don’t Know How I Got Pregnant! Why Abstinence Based Sex Ed Doesn’t Work

First of all, let me address abstinence and the strong feelings that tend to come with it. I understand. I understand that people who promote abstinence based sex education really do have the best intentions behind it. No one wants their child to have sex before they’re ready/can handle the consequences/outside of marriage. Everyone wants their child to wait as long as they possibly can so that they’re not exposed to the tremendous risks that come along with sex. This I wholeheartedly understand.

What I don’t understand is why we continue to promote it, when studies have shown over and over again that it isn’t working. The social factors alone are evidence enough that these policies are not working. The United States has the highest teenage pregnancy rate out of all the developed countries, and the highest infant mortality rate of the developed countries. The lack of women’s health and reproductive rights in this country is outrageous, especially since the U.S. tends to be portrayed as a global superpower. If this is true, we’re making a mockery of ourselves with the way we’re handling these things, like women’s health, that really should be considered non-issues. The average birth rate per 1,000 young women ages 15-19 in the United States is 34.2 (2010). Here is a handy little map so you can compare numbers geographically. You’ll notice that in the southern states, this number rises dramatically. In Texas, my home state, the number is 52.2. In Mississippi, it’s 55. Wait, what? That’s such a large amount of young women getting pregnant! Get this, only 22 out of the 50 states require sex education and 20 require HIV/AIDS education. Only 19 of these states require medically accurate information. And even then, it’s stated that the definition of “medically accurate” can vary. Yikes. I even looked at a website called abstinenceworks.org, where you can see where your state stands on sex education. The language associated with states that don’t comply to their preferred method of teaching borders on ludicrous.

Here is what sex educators, legislators, parents, and voters need to know. No matter what you do, teenagers always have, and always will have sex. If they’re going to do it, I would rather them have access to the resources that will protect them from contracting an STI, or becoming pregnant. In centuries past, adolescents were marrying by the time they hit puberty, so sex outside of marriage was a non-issue. However, the age at which people are getting married is slowly getting older. The average age men marry is almost 30, and women are typically married around 26 years old. The economy is tough, jobs are even tougher to come by. It doesn’t always make sense for these young couples to get married when they are not financially stable. Since the average age of marriage is getting older, it makes sense that adolescents aren’t waiting to have sex.

Think about when you were a teenager. How often did you actually listen to the things your parents were telling you about love, life, and relationships? Chances are, you didn’t pay much attention. We make our own decisions and learn from them, whether we regard them as mistakes or not. Abstinence sex education works the same way. Don’t you wish your mother had given you all the information in regards to that bad boy that you were totally into? Don’t you wish she’d given you some solid, factual information on the content of his character (and maybe criminal record)? When you’re presented with all of the facts, you are able to make an informed decision that greatly impacts your future. You wouldn’t make a major move to a completely different city for a job offer without reviewing the position, looking into the company, and determining whether or not it would make you happy, would you? The same basic concepts apply.

So, my friends, I encourage all of you to advocate for these ridiculous trends to change! We hold the power to change things. So lets get to it.