Most of us have heard of Child Protective Services, which are state agencies that exist to protect children who are subject to harm, abuse, or neglect. However, fewer people have heard of Adult Protective Services, or APS. So how can Adult Protective Services help? Read on to find out how these agencies can provide assistance to vulnerable adults.
What is Adult Protective Services?
While most adults are able to protect themselves from severe exploitation and keep themselves safe, there are many adults who are not able to do so. Whether it is because of disability, illness, or age-related mental decline, some adults are unable to prevent financial exploitation, abuse, and neglect and require assistance to keep them safe from harm.
Each state’s APS agency operates differently, but in most cases APS is there to step in with services to protect the most vulnerable.
When Can Adult Protective Services Help?
You might be wondering when it is appropriate to seek intervention from the APS agency in your state.
Adult Protective Services is there to investigate suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of adults, age 18 and older who are physically or mentally impaired, or otherwise unable to help themselves.
APS is there to intervene when:
- There is physical abuse taking place at the hands of caregivers, in a hospital, nursing home, or other institutional setting.
- There is neglect, or failure of a caregiver or institutional setting to provide safe shelter, food, clothing, or medical attention to an adult in their care.
- An adult is being over- or under-medicated by the person or institution charged with their care.
- Someone is taking advantage financially of a senior or other vulnerable adult.
- An adult is being sexually abused.
- An adult is unable to take care of his or herself (e.g. eating, dressing, bathing, etc.)
- Someone is isolating an adult by preventing them from communicating with others. This can take place in an institutional setting or be perpetrated by a spouse or caregiver.
- A caregiver or institutional setting is causing mental or emotional suffering (verbal assaults, causing fear, etc.)
These are some of the most common scenarios where APS intervention may be appropriate, but there may be other times when their help is required.
There are also times when help from APS is not appropriate and it is important to remember that adults with physical, and even mental impairments can and must consent to receive services. Contrary to popular belief, adults at any level of impairment who are engaged in consensual romantic or sexual relationships are not necessarily subject to intervention.
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How Can Adult Protective Services Help?
So, you’re wondering how can Adult Protective Services help and what power does APS have?
First, it is important to note that APS is not a law enforcement agency, but they can connect with law enforcement agencies when there is criminal activity to be addressed. This would occur in the case of financial exploitation or physical or sexual abuse.
The primary purpose of APS agencies is to connect vulnerable adults with the appropriate services. In addition to performing an investigation of alleged abuse, neglect, or harm, APS can:
- Help a vulnerable adult or senior to find an alternative living arrangement.
- Help a vulnerable adult or senior with financial management.
- Help a vulnerable adult or senior advocate or apply for social services like Medicaid, food stamps, emergency housing, or disability payments.
- Help a vulnerable adult or senior obtain legal counsel.
- Place a vulnerable adult or senior under conservatorship or guardianship in cases where there is no one to care for them or make decisions on their behalf.
How Do I Connect With The Adult Protective Services Agency Near Me?
The National Adult Protective Services Association has a great interactive map which can be used to find contact information for the APS agency in your state. Please note that some states have two separate phone numbers to report abuse, neglect or harm to younger adults vs. seniors.
When you make a call to the APS agency in your state, you can usually make a report anonymously, but you must know the name and location of the alleged victim, and some details of the abuse or neglect taking place.
Finally, it is important to note that we each have a responsibility to report suspected abuse or neglect of vulnerable adults. In fact, in some states it is required by law that anyone who suspects that an adult is being harmed or neglected to report it to APS.
More information about Adult Protective Services can be found on the National Adult Protective Services Association website.