California Department Of Justice Complaint - Duty to Act, failure to act
GLENDORA, CALIFORNIA -- On April 21, 2005, at or about 2:30 pm PDT, xxxxxxxxxx of DPSS's Adult Protective Services (APS) out of Glendora, CA arrived to the home. He stated he was checking on my now former client's welfare as a result of multiple complaints received regarding possible fudiciary, emotional, and physical abuse, as well as neglect and abandonment, by specific caregivers. These complaints were filed by licensed nurses, social workers, and myself. They were detailed statements based upon events we seperately or together witnessed. The client is a female in the end stages of ALS, is totally paralyzed, and is ventilator dependent.
The social worker barely looked at the client, and never spoke to or with her. Instead, he spoke only with one of the alleged abusers for less than one minute, and then went with her outside the home, where they talked for a few more minutes. I had clearly stated my wish to speak with Lopez after he spoke with the client, but he refused. He stated on his way out the door that he found no evidence the client was being mistreated or neglected, or that the conditions she was living under were unsafe.
In short, this guy was able to assess in 45 seconds that all the abuse, neglect, isolation, and abandonment witnessed and reported by trained and licensed healthcare professionals and social workers over two months never occurred, and that the multiple reports received had no merit. He was able to do this by entering 20 feet into the home, looking around for a few seconds, and then departing under the watchful eyes and guidance of one of the abusers.
Licensed and certified healthcare workers and social workers are required by California law to report ANY suspicion of abuse, even if they themselves have their own doubts as to whether or not said abuse is occurring. This is known as a "duty to act," and one many healthcare workers take quite seriously. Penalties for failing to act include loss of licensure, heavy fines, and prison sentences.
What are we, who reported this particular case, to do when the person sent out to investigate allegations of abuse, neglect, and abandonment refuses to actually look into the allegations? My position was a live-in one, and involved providing emergency care on call, as well as regular care on a scheduled basis. Of course, I was fired for reporting my concerns to my immediate supervisor. The nursing registry is being replaced as well. Seems the caregiver/abuser who effectively manipulated the client into firing me, and who also was effective in keeping the APS social worker away from the client, is now pushing to isolate the client from the last few people who have voiced any concerns.
The lessons learned from this are many. First, I now understand why there is a massive nursing shortage in California. If we suspect abuse and do what the law requires, we get fired. If we suspect abuse and fail to report it, we go to prison. Either way, years of school and training, along with our careers, are flushed down the tubes the moment we come in contact with anyone who may be a victim of abuse. Meanwhile, APS will continue there "one minute or less" policy for conducting in-home investigations, insuring that the abuser remains free to continue with "business as usual," at the expense of the lives of their victims.