DHS Social Workers are Silent Superheroes: A Conversation with Clarence Craig

DHS Social Worker, Clarence Craig advising a colleague on a strategy for a crisis intervention.

Native Washingtonian and DHS Social Worker Clarence Craig has worked to improve the lives of District residents for thirty-one years. A graduate of Catholic and Howard Universities, he began his career at DHS in the Adult Protective Services (APS) unit immediately after college and says that he always knew he wanted to help people.

The APS unit investigates reports of alleged cases of abuse, neglect, and exploitation by third parties, and self-neglect of vulnerable adults 18 years of age or older. APS provides protective services to reduce or eliminate the risk of abuse, neglect, self-neglect, and exploitation.

Craig says that he never left APS in all of these years because he is afforded the opportunity to change and sometimes even save peoples’ lives. “One of my most memorable cases occurred last year when a client was suffering abuse at the hands of his caregiver. We received the tip from one of his co-workers who observed welts on his neck and face,” said Craig.

“I just knew I would not sleep that evening if I didn’t do something, so we removed him from his home the same day and placed him in a hotel until we could obtain a court order granting us guardianship,” he continued. The caregiver, Craig said, was routinely beating the elderly gentlemen with a belt buckle.

Elder Abuse is too Common

According to the Department of Justice, approximately 1 in 10 Americans aged 60+ have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some estimates suggest as many as 5 million elders are abused each year. One study estimated that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are reported to authorities.

Adult abuse generally refers to mistreatment of an older person by someone who has a special relationship with the elder such as a spouse, sibling, child, friend, or caregiver. Abuse may take the form of one or all of the following: physical, financial or emotional abuse, neglect or abandonment.

Reporting Abuse

Many who suffer from abuse may feel ashamed and embarrassed and suffer from low self-esteem. Some don’t want to report their own child as an abuser. Often the abused simply fears more abuse if they report it. Others may be unable to think clearly, or they may not realize that help is available.

If you know a vulnerable adult you suspect is suffering abuse, call the hotline at (202) 541–3950. More victims are helped by callers outside the family than in it. When you call the hotline, a social worker will assist you. The social worker will take information about your concerns and will conduct an investigation to determine if abuse, neglect, or exploitation is occurring.

If the investigation indicates that a person is in need of protection, a variety of services may be made available to them. Social workers may arrange for counseling, legal services, emergency placement, and/or medical services.

Remember, the person you are worried about can refuse intervention. And your identity will be protected, because reports are confidential.