Investigation – what does it mean?

Throughout my 20 year professional career, I have worked in many settings that were reviewed, investigated, audited or in some way fell under external, independent review by other organizations or agencies.  Some of these are routine and some are unannounced (surprise) investigations.  I have also been a quality assurance team leader, responsible for investigating other programs.  I am accustomed to it, and even appreciate the necessity and importance of such a process – so much so that I am still surprised when people react negatively or out of alarm when they hear the word investigation.  Investigation is not a dirty word!

There are some important things to keep in mind:

1.  An investigation does not imply wrong doing. Anyone falsely accused will tell you that.   I was reminded of this recently from parents who were reported to their state’s Child Protective Service agency for abuse by their own teenage daughter.  Turns out she was angry and thought this would be a good way to get back at them.  The state investigated and determined the parents were not abusing their daughter.  This can happen to you.  As it happened to these parents, it has happened to us.  Allegations of abuse can be made by anyone, against anyone.  And if you present yourself reasonably well, you can prompt an investigation.  Agencies are required to investigate any claim of abuse or neglect that they determine to be legitimate.  And the investigation is to find out if the allegation is true.  Let me repeat, the investigation itself does not mean anything is wrong – the investigation is to find out IF anything is wrong.

2.  Any time an investigation, audit, or review is done, especially by a state agency, even if the original allegation is unfounded (meaning untrue), they will (not maybe, will) make recommendations (called “findings”).  Findings are not only expected, but required – and represent the agency’s suggestions – identifying things they would like to see changed or improved.  This is where growth and improvement occurs in programs – addressing and responding to findings. 

3.  My experience has taught me to trust and value programs who have been investigated.   In fact, parents can have more faith and confidence in programs who have been investigated and bring themselves under the authority of independent, external auditing and accrediting bodies because those schools and programs have been scrutinized.

4.  We work in an industry and field where investigations of all sorts are routine.  Anyone working with children and youth can expect an investigation – and in fact, to safeguard our children in schools and programs, I am glad there are people who can respond to allegations.  We work with youth who are defiant, have mental health issues, tend to externalize blame (blame others for their problems), have difficulty managing anger and resentment, and even disrespect, hurt and/or abuse their parents and siblings.  This does not describe all of our students, but it is rather common in the students we try to help.    When you work with young people who at times report their parents to child protective services out of spite or anger, you can expect the same until some healing occurs.  Unfortunately, sometimes that healing does not occur and we all know adults who have these same issues.

So, my reaction to the recent state inspection is not one of alarm or concern.  I knew we were not abusing our students (as had been alleged) and as expected, the state investigation was clear that the allegation of abuse is false – there is no abuse occurring at the school.  And also as expected, they made recommendations (findings).  Some of these were not new news – we had already begun making changes in the direction they were recommending (building new dorms so we could move students out of trailers for example).   Some findings we are not in agreement with and are discussing them with the state (also a routine process).  Some were good recommendations and we are moving to make those changes. 

To read more about the investigation, click here ( ).

The end result of this investigation – A better, stronger school.

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