Attention: this story contains graphic details of true stories told by a former local case worker with the Department of Family and Children Services.
As a case worker for the Department of Family and Children Services for more than two decades, Evelyn Kelly Norman witnessed things that would make most people cringe. In her recent book "No One Would Believe It: Experiences of a Child Abuse Investigator," she shares some of those experiences with the public, allowing a glimpse into DFACS that most people never see.
While the names have been changed in order to keep those involved confidential, the book contains several different cases that Norman worked on in her 27 years as a case worker.
"The identification was changed but the actions are all exactly what happened," she said. "Everybody always thinks they know what happens and that lends itself to a lot of guessing about what we are doing. I wanted to write a book people could read and still abide by confidentially laws."
When Norman first began her training as a case worker, she said she spent about two years "being shocked" before she was able to go into any given situation and feel emotionally prepared. Her first case she remembered well dealt with a boy who had been beaten by his mother with a broom. During the interview with her, she reportedly told Norman and her supervisor that her son had been disrespectful and she had hit him with the broomstick. When they informed her she couldn’t do that, she allegedly swung the broomstick at them, causing them quickly to leave the home and wait for police before returning.
"DFACS steps in when no one else does," she said. "When we come on the scene, everyone is looking at us for answers. You learn early on that if you get emotionally upset, angry or shocked, that you are of little use to the children or the family that you’ve been hired to help. In many situations the only thing standing between that child or children getting injured or killed is the DFACS worker. Everyone has an opinion about case workers but no one really knows. We are the everyday heroes that no one sees."
While Norman says that every caseworker is different when it comes to what type of case bothers them the most, she says that sexual abuse is hard to see and "shocking" but the cases that bothered her the most were when parents no longer wanted their children.
"I remember a mother coming in to the office with her 9-year-old and 10-year-old sons," she said. "She wanted the 10-year-old but she didn’t want the 9-year-old. No matter how much we talked to her or tried to help she just didn’t want him. She was adamant that she wanted that child out of her life — even saying that in front of him. When she was told it was against the law to abandon him, she said ‘take me to court.’
"She told us that he had a smart mouth and that he looked like his father whom she didn’t care for and that she had never wanted him in the first place. When she left, I sat with him in my lap and we both cried. That just never got easier for me: the people who could just walk in and hand you their child and say ‘here, you take them.’"
And according to Norman, no matter how abused a child has been they generally always want to go home with their parents. And, for the most part, the parents want their child back.
In one case, however, the child fought to keep from being given back to his parents after he was removed from their care when his penis was severed in an unsuccessful attempt to keep him from wetting his bed.
The parents had allegedly tied a string around his penis and would pull it in an attempt to keep the child from wetting his bed in the night. The parents showed remorse for their actions and, according to Norman, hadn’t wanted to hurt their child. Despite their pleas, the boy was later adopted by the surgeon who was able successfully to reattach his amputated parts.
"It usually doesn’t matter what was done to them," said Norman; "the children want to go home. And I found that most times the parents were trying, but they needed help. Most parents aren’t monsters; they are people who love their children, but every case is different."
Norman’s book is currently being used by a university in California in their nursing department in order to help future nurses understand child abuse better and Norman hopes that other people who deal with children on a regular basis, such as law enforcement officers and educators, will find the book useful.
"I can’t think of many people that this book wouldn’t be helpful to because all of the cases I write about are run-of-the-mill average cases," she said. "I was not an unusual caseworker. There are thousands of caseworkers across America that do this every day."
For information on the book, visit Norman’s Web site at www.evelynknorman.com. The book can also be purchased on www.amazon.com.