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DCFS simulation gives inside look at challenges investigators face

DCFS simulation training gives inside look (WICS)
DCFS simulation training gives inside look (WICS)
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Imagine knocking on a door of parents accused of abusing their children and asking them tough questions.

This is what investigators do on a daily basis.

"It can be a very draining job, mentally, emotionally and physically,” said Susan Evans, executive director of Child Protection Training Academy.

One of the jobs that the Department of Children and Family Services is tasked with is making sure children are safe.

In order to do this job, DCFS investigators have to enter the homes of people accused of horrible crimes.

Reporter Ana Espinosa was given the opportunity to participate in the training that DCFS investigators must complete.

It all starts with a call that was made to the hotline reporting an allegation of possible abuse or neglect.

"I got a call about the report that you made into the hotline,” Espinosa said.

Then the investigator knocks on the door and has to get into the house and assess the safety of the children.

"Can I come in?” Espinosa asked.

“I don’t understand. Who called in, for one thing?" a simulation lab actor said.

UIS instructors and former investigators are monitoring every moment from another room while actors recreate the fear and anxiety of losing their children.

Usually, an investigator is alone with parents that can be influenced by drugs or alcohol because these investigators can’t call ahead and let families know they are going to be there.

An investigator must ask parents difficult and personal questions about allegations of abuse or neglect.

"I didn’t expect someone to do an inspection on me out of nowhere," a simulation lab actor said.

Espinosa was only inside the house for 10 minutes.

For investigators, it can take hours to get the information they need and often do several investigations in one day.

"We want to err on the side of the child,” Evans said. “We want to keep children safe. But, it is inherently complex and it’s something that is very difficult to describe unless you have experienced it."

Before ever walking into the training, Espinosa spent hours reading policies and procedures just like investigators-in-training.

"You can study the laws and procedures that you have been doing but then to put them into practice professionally but with intention,” Evans said. “You know, that’s why we do simulation."

But there are no step-by-step instructions on how to act in these situations.

"It’s as close to real life as you are going to get without any of the consequences of a bad decision,” said Betsy Goulet, assistant professor at UIS.

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More than 600 DCFS investigators have been through this training.

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