Sioux Falls, SD
The safety of every child is the top priority for everyone who works in the Child Protective Service. Each day, report after report of child neglect or abuse come to their desks.Then their job begins.
"We don't want anything to happen to children. Obviously, we want to make sure that they're safe and their needs are met and they can remain with their parents when they're able to be in their homes safely," Child Protective Services regional manager Vicki Burger said.
The level of involvement from the department ultimately depends on how the well-being of a child is threatened.
"The timing of how we handle the cases really depends on the case and the situation, the vulnerability of the children or child. We look at lots of different factors," Burger said.
Cases can range in severity. From the couple who allegedly left their children in the car to a one-year-old allegedly living in an apartment used as a meth lab, the department takes on many different situations.
"We always try to place with relatives whenever that's possible. If that's not possible, then children could be placed in foster care," Burger said.
In the case of the Nathan Ostermeyer and Betsy Hanson, a witness saw the kids in the car. Burger says people speaking up are important in keeping children safe.
"Obviously, if there's ever a situation where a person comes across a child or children that they feel may be unattended or left in a situation that could be considered dangerous for them, they should call law enforcement," Burger said.
With each case that's presented to them, Burger says it can often be hard to stay detached, but she says they all keep focused knowing what they're ultimately working for."
"That's really important, to support ourselves, but most importantly we have to maintain the understand of what we're here for and what we're doing each day. It can be hard, yes," Burger said.
Burger says that the number of cases her department has taken on in Sioux Falls has gone up, but that's due to the increase in population and the awareness people have of situations of child abuse and neglect.