Victim ServicesAlumna Melissa Brod found her niche in helping abused children find safe homes.
“All I saw was probation and the law enforcement end of things,” said Brod. “But not all of it’s punitive; criminal justice can help in the social work side of it too.”
After serving eight years as a case worker with Child Protective Services in Austin, Colorado, and Waller counties, Brod now is the supervisor of the conservatorship program covering Burleson, Grimes, Madison, and Washington counties. She oversees cases where children have been removed from their home after the investigation of allegations of abuse or neglect and placed with relatives or in foster care. She supervises five case workers, each who handle about 20 cases, and two human services technicians, who process legal paperwork and help transport and supervise children during family visits.
Over the last 18 years, Brod has seen positive changes in the system. Because she works in rural counties, it is often hard to find foster homes in the local community. Now, she can certify placements by “kinship,” who are people involved in the child’s life, such as teachers, ER nurses, or landlords, if they are appropriate candidates. “They want the children to be local so they can get the resources they need,” said Brod. “A kinship family is one in which they are in a relationship with the family and one who they trust.”
Before joining the Brenham office, Brod was a generic case worker handling the full spectrum of CPS cases, such as investigations, family services, removals, termination of family rights, and family reunification. Now, caseloads are more specialized, which is a “good thing for the community,” Brod said.
One of the key attributes needed to work in CPS is compassion. “You can’t have a better-than-thou attitude,” said Brod. “You have to be respectful, understanding, and kind to even to those who have done the most heinous things to children. We don’t work with the kids, we work with the kids’ lives, and decisions we make determine the outcome of their lives, and you have to take that very seriously.”
After graduation from SHSU, Brod began her career working with at-risk adjudicated youth at the Gulf Coast Trade Center and later at the Youth and Family Services STAR Program, which target youths who are runaways, truants, or have difficulty at home. Brod said Gulf Coast exposed her to kids who were involved in drugs and criminal activities, while STAR allowed her to better understand youth and to be compassionate.
Brod said she didn’t go into criminal justice to make a lot of money, but that her career has other priceless awards. She sometimes meets youth who were under her care, who have grown into adults with children of their own. They thank her for the decisions she made.
“I did make a difference in the lives of these children, and I have broken the cycle,” Brod said. “I see them parent their own child, and they broke the cycle. That is the most rewarding thing in this job.”