The Open Records Project recently had the opportunity to interview a recently resigned Adult Protective Service social worker. The social workers are the front line troops in the State’s alleged fight to stop elder abuse.
This brave man is but a single individual, but his story adds another piece to the puzzle of how a part of $75B agency has begun to act in a manner that appears like a criminal enterprise.
Below is an edited version of the interview. In the interest of brevity we have shortened the nearly hour and a half interview to fit into the space of this article. A few details have been changed to protect the identity of the individual who no longer works for APS but does interact with the agency in his new position.
Just because a single individual makes a statement does not mean it is fact. Any statement must be measured against other supporting or conflicting information.
ORP – How long did you work for the Adult Protective Services?
A – 20 months.
QRP – What was your responsibility?
A- I investigated complaints that were called in to the agency.
ORP – What did you do before working for APS?
A – I was finishing graduate school. (Licensed Master of Social Work)
ORP – The agency has reported annual social worker turnover of 40% or more. This is the sort of turnover seen in minimum wage jobs, and it appears to be a very inefficient utilization of staffing. What’s going on.
A – The money is pretty bad. I make 56% more in my new job, but the real problem is that the job really sucks and the supervisors suck.
ORP – What kind of training did you receive from APS?
A – Within a month of starting I was sent to Austin for 2 weeks of instruction on how to investigate cases, complete paperwork, work the computers, and connect clients to community resources. They also trained us in hoarding, depression, and other psychiatric issues.
ORP – All that in 2 weeks?
A- Yep. It wasn’t so bad for me since other than the computers and paperwork I had studied most of that stuff in graduate school. However I was the only one in my APS class that had a degree in Social Work. There were people with degrees in Poetry, History, Elementary Education, all kinds of irrelevant degrees.
ORP – You mentioned you studied hoarding. We have found that APS will use a cabinet stocked with provisions as an indication of “senile dementia”. Is hoarding a crime in Texas?
A – Nope. Old people tend to collect stuff, particularly food. Many of them are worried about going hungry and want to be prepared.
ORP – Would you expand on the job “sucking” you previously mentioned?
A – It is a soul draining job. Those of us who wanted to do good just got ground down. I think it was intentional. The supervisor would spot the “do gooders” and overload them with crummy cases until they quit.
ORP – We have noticed that when APS grabs an individual or couple they are apparently indifferent to the security of the home and its possessions including pets. Every case of APS kidnapping we’ve investigated resulted in a looted or vandalized home. One had the family’s silver stolen. Another had a rifle fired in the living room with the bullet passing through 3 walls before exiting into the alley. The cats and dogs were left without care and either became strays or died of starvation.
A – We don’t think of it as kidnapping. We’re taking these individuals into care, “In their best interest.” You are correct about securing the homes. We often left the homes unlocked because we did not have keys. Yep. We ignored the animals. I felt pretty bad about it after a while. I adopted one cat myself.
ORP – You mentioned that common APS aphorism, “In their best interest.” Who gets to decide best interest?
A – We do and the probate courts do.
ORP – Why should an individual or couple that is breaking no law and harming no one be forcibly removed from their home and have their assets confiscated on the say so of a social worker?
A – A supervisor’s approval is required. This is one of the things about the job that sucks. I consider myself a pretty compassionate person. Most of the people I went to school with were similar. We all wanted to make things better.
It took about a month for me to realize the reality was that we were going to be worked into the ground with mostly bogus cases and all that stuff about connecting clients to community resources was just so much bs.
ORP – What do you mean bogus cases?
A – I estimate 60-70% of the calls to us regarding elder abuse were absolutely false.
ORP – Who would make these calls?
A – It was angry neighbors. This was the way they would settle a grudge. When I say “bogus”, I mean completely and utterly fabricated, made up, untrue. A caller would report that her neighbor was living in filth with dozens of stray animals and feces everywhere. We would go out to investigate and find the place was pristine, spotless. Two months later, the same caller would report the same neighbor again usually to a different investigator. We would go out to investigate again and find the same thing. This would happen over and over, and there were no consequences. Some neighbors would call twice in 30 days and according to our policy we didn’t have to investigate the second call. But when they called the third time, we were out there again.
Making a fake call to APS is not the same as filing a false police report, so there is no crime being committed.
ORP – This seems like a major waste of the agency’s time and money. Were your supervisors aware of the problem?
A – Sure they were. You’ve got to understand that there is almost as much turnover in supervisors as investigators. They either didn’t care or were unable to interest their managers. I don’t know which. I did not have much visibility above me.
ORP – Do you recognize the name, Tom Suehs?
A – No.
ORP – He was the Commissioner of Human Services while you worked for the agency.
A – Never heard the name.
ORP – We’ve been investigating what appears to be a tight relationship between some hospitals and APS. When a patient with assets and no kids checks in, someone is giving APS a call.
A – I don’t know about that. What I do know is that hospitals used to use us to take unprofitable patients off their hands. Say a woman keeps calling 911 complaining about some pain or another. Each time an ambulance will pick here up and take her to the hospital where she will stay for a couple of days. Nothing will be found, and she’ll be released. A couple of months later she’ll call again with the same pain. This is a patient that the hospital loses money on. After her 3rd call, the hospital will call us to come get her. We’ll put her in a nursing home and the hospital will never see her again.
ORP – We’ve noticed that patients in nursing homes only get taken to the hospital when they are in cardiac arrest or something similar. APS kidnapped Charlie Fink after his hernia operation, stuck him in a nursing home and tried to dope him up. He refused to take the drugs. They held him down, tried to force feed him, and broke his sutures from the operation. He bled for 3 days without medical attention.
A – I never saw the nursing homes. I just know that’s where the people we took ended up.
ORP – How many of them wanted to go?
A – None. Nobody wants to go to a nursing home.
ORP – We’ve got some documents that show nursing homes and for-profit asylums paying “admission bonuses”.
A – The bonus was $250. I never got one. It is against the law. Somebody got them, but I don’t know who.
ORP – Earlier in the interview you complained about your supervisors. What did you not like about your supervisors?
A – All of them were psychopaths. They were liars. They enjoyed having control over others and making people uncomfortable.
ORP – Clients or investigators?
A – Both.
ORP – Certainly you’re exaggerating.
A – Not at all. There was a total lack of empathy for anyone. In one instance I had investigated an elderly woman living alone. She was a bit tottery but seemed to getting along just fine. My supervisor said, “Take her. It will be easier.” I had no idea who she thought it would be easier on, certainly not the woman, and certainly not me.
Not only that, but investigators at my level who seemed to really care would get promoted to supervisor and within 6 months they would be psychopaths.
ORP – Are you glad you’re gone?
A – Yep. I sleep much better.
ORP – Thanks for your time.