Dear Tits and Sass: Keeping The Kids

by suzyhooker on May 28, 2015 · 7 comments

in Dear Tits and Sass

(Photo by Flickr user notsogoodphotography)

(Photo by Flickr user notsogoodphotography)

I’m a pro domme who also sometimes does full-service work. My partner of seven years and I are thinking about trying for a kid, but I’m worried about the custody issues that might come up because of what I do for work if he and I were ever to split up, or if I got arrested, or if anything else went wrong. I trust my boyfriend, and I don’t anticipate our stable relationship breaking up anytime soon, but you never know. He’s a white collar professional, while I’ve never held a straight job: I know which one of us would look better in court. What should sex workers with children know about child protective services and how best to keep their kids?

Anxious about the future,

Sarah

Caty:  To answer your question, I contacted a sex worker ally social worker. She spoke to officials in the child protective system who were willing to help us with this post on condition of anonymity: a guardian ad litem (a purportedly impartial guardian appointed by the court to represent the interests of a child for the duration of a legal action—in some states, these officials are called court appointed special advocates) and a child protective services worker. Keeping in mind that custody laws differ from state to state, and you should research how things work in your own state yourself, here are some general tips for sex worker parents on how to navigate child protective services:

Avoid getting involved with child protective services in the first place.

Be the best parent you can be. Make sure your kids get check-ups on time, attend their school meetings, and get the best daycare you can afford. You’d be doing this sort of thing anyway, but if nothing raises any red flags in the children’s behavior or welfare, there’s nothing for mandated reporters like teachers and doctors to raise concerns to your state child protective services about. Poor women and children, unfortunately, are more likely to run across mandated reporters, but if your kids don’t have any issues, there’s nothing to report.

Child protective services don’t screen specifically for a parent doing sex work. They don’t get involved with family matters simply because of a parent’s job, only if that job affects the children in a negative way. The child protective services worker compared the situation to a parent being homeless. The agency only intervenes if the homelessness impacts the child’s well being, e.g., not getting enough to eat or missing school.

“The bottom line is,” the CPS worker said, “if your job does not jeopardize your child’s well-being and safety, then there is no reason for [child protective services] to get involved.”

Have a safety plan in place in case you get busted.

The only situation in which child protective services would intervene specifically because of a parent’s sex work would be if the police arrest a parent for prostitution. Then the agency would have to make a determination, which would be based on probable cause for the child being in imminent danger. The factors the agency might consider would be whether or not the parent does sex work where the children reside or elsewhere and whether there are arrangements for the children to be looked after while the parent is away working.

If the parent is imprisoned, the agency would have to decide where the children are placed, based on whether or not there are other family members that can take care of them while the parent is in jail. Unsurprisingly, white people who interact with the system are much more likely to have the police allow them to place the children with a relative rather than having them filtered into foster care or a youth home. But regardless, being able to demonstrate that your children have a good backup situation for when you’re not there will go a long way towards preventing them from being taken into care.

One thing the guardian ad litem found is that “in–kind sex workers are less likely to be noticed.” So if you’re doing full-service work, if you’re able to switch to sugar babying or seeing regulars discreetly (especially in an implicit barter relationship instead of for cash) while you’re raising your kids rather than putting up escort ads or working for an agency, that’s the best option.

Courtney Love, one famous former sex worker who survived child protective services involvement and kept her kid. (Photo by Flickr user whittlz)

Courtney Love, one famous former sex worker who survived child protective services involvement and ultimately kept her child. (Photo by Flickr user whittlz)

If you’re already in the system for a non-sex work related reason, and they find out about your sex work, there are still things you can do to increase your chances of keeping your child.

If you’re a grey market worker (dancer, cam worker, etc.) rather than a black market worker, your chances are better. But as long as you can demonstrate that you provide adequate child care when you’re away and you meet the needs of your child, you should be fine.

“It’s all about not exposing [their] child to the world [they] work in, crime, or violence,” the guardian ad litem stated.

Child protective services will also no doubt refer you to a rescue industry organization. If you want to leave the industry, you may as well see if this is a resource you can utilize to help you do that. If you have no plans to retire, as the guardian ad litem put it, “it’s a waste of [your] time,” but it is a standard case plan element for parents engaged in sex work.

If child protective services are already involved in your case, be as cordial as you can be to the workers, and let them actually help you.

Child protective services involvement makes for contentious, difficult interactions, and CP workers take a lot of flak from understandably upset parents. A little civility and politeness to the workers in your case can go a long way, given the hostility they deal with on a day to day basis.

Also, as the guardian ad litem put it, “They are involved because your kids were in a situation. Let them help you make the situation better.” Child protective services agencies have access to resources such as housing, phone cards, bus cards, and insurance. As long as they’re involved in your life, you may as well take advantage of these resources to help make you and your kids’ lives easier.

This kid's not going quietly. (Photo by Flickr user Greg Westfall)

This kid’s not going quietly. (Photo by Flickr user Greg Westfall)

There’s nothing you can do to keep even past sex work from being used against you in a custody case, but there are still measures you can take to influence the case in your favor.

The sex worker ally social worker had this to say:

The personnel over there [in Family Court] see people at their worst, and they get jaded and make a lot of assumptions quickly and with no balance or repercussions. There are judges over there that don’t really believe that child sexual abuse is a real thing (because why would parents do that????), or think that domestic violence is always a lie manufactured by crazy women, etc. So, my assumption would be that yes, unfortunately, [a sex work past] would be able to be used against you. You want to make best, best friends with the [Guardian Ad Litem] (if your case is contentious enough to have a GAL assigned), because they essentially run the case. You want to take control of the narrative early. You want to state facts clearly and stay away from loaded language, even on topics that should be loaded, because Family Court is so primed to view things like anger over being abused as ‘bashing your ex.’ Family Court is really a place where they make decisions based on who they like best. It’s a terrible place and everybody should send flowers to any of their friends currently dealing with it.

Again, custody law, child protective services protocol, and Family Court procedures vary from state to state, so the tips above should only be taken as general pointers. You should follow up by doing research on how things work in your own state and consulting a lawyer.  Know your rights: for example, you are not obligated to allow child protective services into your home unless they have a warrant or a court order to show you, and it’s infinitely better for you to politely refuse them entry—even if they bluster and say it’s an emergency or that they’ll take your children away unless you let them in—and tell them you’ll call and make an appointment with them for a better time. If you let them in, you’ve waived your Fourth Amendment rights, and if for any reason the worker is intent on taking your children away, they’ll find something in your home to justify that course of action.

In some situations, the advice above doesn’t apply at all, such as the case of underage sex working parents. In states with Safe Harbor laws, a minor doing sex work will not be charged with a crime (instead diverted into court ordered treatment or institutionalization), but their children will still be placed into care. Of course, the underage parent can work on getting them back, staying in contact with child protective services, but they’d have to stop engaging in sex work. There are some programs throughout the country which allow them to live with their children while they stay there, but, again, they wouldn’t be able to keep doing sex work while living there.

Ultimately, you shouldn’t let your fear of custody issues stop you from starting a family if you want to have a child. Just keep yourself informed. know your rights, and be savvy interacting with officials if you do get stuck in the system. Good luck!

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Juniper Fitzgerald May 28, 2015 at 1:31 pm

Thank you for this. I also think “anti-trafficking” narratives are impacting custody issues. These narratives of sexual danger allow the state an unfettered, paternalistic kind of access into the private lives of women.

It’s maddening.

Reply

Ms Sassy Sherry May 29, 2015 at 7:28 pm

I have worked with CPS and I have refused to allow them in another time. O hate CPS and am glad my last child is 18. If I had known my rights at the beginning, I would have ALWAYS refused to talk to them. Also, if a CPS worker goes to the kid’s school and talks to the kids without your knowledge, they are violating the kid’s fourth rights amendments. You can file a paper with the school that tells them they are not allowed to let CPS speak to the kids.
CPS is not regulated by a governing body, they so what they want to whom they want, without having to answer for their actions. Please learn your states laws when dealing with them, but if I were anyone in this situation, I would REFUSE their involvement every time

Reply

mama of grown child June 26, 2015 at 5:08 pm

Big underline to everything Ms Sassy Sherry said!

reading this column is really upsetting to me as a low income white single welfare mom and to many stories and experiences i have seen around me, plus experienced personally, with CPR. they are not reasonable. However the link in this blog entry to what you should know – is excellent!: http://www.houstontexascpslawyer.com/blog/2010/08/11/what-you-should-know-if-cps-targets-you-or-your-family/

is excellent.

no offense but I don’t believe the person who wrote this column is a marginalized parent. its a good topic. but you need to be warned more about CPR. sure be polite. and know your rights! i don’t feel my response is very carefully done but this just needs to be really really underlined.

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mama of grown child June 26, 2015 at 5:20 pm

CPS – i meant to say. like I said, I’m tired. My response is not perfect. But I would feel irresponsible to read this and not say something. You don’t want to think its ok if you do nothing wrong, your going to be ok, and just be polite. you want to know your rights and tell them NO, don’t let them in your house. its like a vampire or such. a very serious issue of classism, racism, and sexism going on with this stuff. being too scared isn’t my point but I also felt so glad when my daughter turned 18 and I felt “no one can take you away from me”. Ive had CPS called on friends for breastfeeding, holistic medicine, having too many people living in your house, and having an ex partner being picked up driving drunk. (obv. I am very white privileged! as there are much much worse stories) Once your in the system, its difficult. cps is an intense subject. this essay seems like its talked to them but not to parents who have navigated issues. information is power. parenting is always put under the spotlight of pressure, making you more vulnerable, but you can do it!

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Hayleigh June 7, 2016 at 2:05 pm

I am going to be a webcam model and I’m a Mom of school aged children. I wanted to know if anyone has an idea about it being okay to webcam while the children sleep in their rooms at night while I cam in my bedroom while my doors are locked. I ask this because summer vacation is starting soon and I won’t be able to cam while they are home and awake obviously (nor would I ever want to). Please let me know because I did read this article and something was mentioned about a sex worker bringing someone in the home. I wouldn’t technically have it around my children because it would be just me and the cam locked in my bedroom. I saw a Dr. Phil show about a woman who was a wife and had at least one child who did it, but there was no actual final word about if it was legal or not (just that she shouldn’t). In my situation, webcam modeling seems to be my last remaining option for work. I just don’t want to do wrong.

Reply

Hayleigh June 17, 2016 at 2:01 pm

Someone please answer my question. This is a serious question. I need answers asap please.

Reply

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