Barbara Miller was familiar with APS – Adult Protective Services – but she wasn’t sure they could help in her situation.
“I was crying around all the time and really depressed and one of my friends said, ‘Why don’t you call Adult Protective Services?’ I said, ‘They’re not going to do anything! Nobody hit me! Nobody hurt me!’” Miller said.
But the 72-year-old San Antonian was wrong – APS could help her.
Adult Protective Services is an agency under the same umbrella as CPS, or Child Protective Services. Both agencies are both part of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
In a nutshell, APS’s exact mission is to help people like Miller.
“I love this job. This is the first and only job I’ve ever loved 100%. And when people ask me WHY? [The answer is] I love helping people,” APS caseworker Aaron Powell said.
APS provides a variety of assistance to adults as young as 18 with a disability and to the more than 3 million Texans who are 65 and older. To get help, people do not need to be living in poverty or receiving government assistance. They also do not need to be U.S. citizens. And, as Barbara Miller found out, they do not need to be the victims of physical abuse.
“We receive reports from everyone alleging that a client of ours is being taken advantage of financially or they’re being abused in some way or they’re just in a state of neglect and can’t take care of themselves – they can’t cook or clean,” Powell said. “And so, what Adult Protective Services does is – we investigate as well as provide resources.”
Caseworkers like Powell visit clients on a daily basis. Often, cases involve someone about to be evicted or whose utilities were cut off.
Miller contacted APS about her living conditions. She lives in a mobile home. During February’s freeze, the pipes under her home froze. Then, they started leaking. Miller told an APS investigator that she called a contractor who came and took her money – but did not fix the leaks. Months went by.
“He didn’t come back, and he didn’t come back, and he didn’t come back… and it’s leaking back there – not leaking – it’s pouring,” Miller said.
The water continues to leak even though Miller keeps her water main shut off. When she needs to turn it on to flush the toilet or take a shower, water gushes out. To prevent waste, Miller has become used to a multistep process involving running in and out of the house – all while carefully traversing water-damaged floors. She has worried the floor will give and that she or her five-year-old grandson will fall through.
APS investigated Miller’s situation and hired a contractor to fix the problem.
“He’s gonna repair the water lines, install new water lines, raise all the water lines that are on the ground, connect to the sewer lines. He’s gonna repair all the flooring,” APS investigator Aubrey Buitron told Miller.
Upon getting the news, Miller at first just looked at Buitron with wide eyes.
“Thank you,” Miller finally said. “I was in the depths of despair.”
“I don’t want to say that I feel like a fairy godmother but, in a way, just being able to bring someone that level of joy, really makes me happy,” Buitron said.
In 2020, APS investigated more than 81,000 cases. But not all of the interactions were joyful.