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Careers: Adult Protective Services Specialist

Working as an Adult Protective Services Specialist

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS), the state's largest public agency, assists Oklahomans in need. Each month, OKDHS helps more than 600,000 children, people with disabilities and elderly Oklahomans lead safer, healthier, more independent and productive lives.

The mission of the Adult Protective Services (APS) program is to provide direction, information and support to OKDHS staff and the Oklahoma community to assure a consistent system of protective services for vulnerable adults. APS is a multi-faceted program for persons 18 and older who are vulnerable and have allegedly been the victim of maltreatment by a caretaker or themselves.

Here’s what some adult protective services specialists have to say about their work days:

In truth, some days are very trying and stressful, as you are responsible for the client's safety and well-being, especially when the Court has named OKDHS as guardian of an individual. It is rewarding to eliminate abuse and neglect, and to resolve issues that the person could not (or would not) address on his or her own. The daily learning aspect of APS is a very positive incentive to remain in the APS program." - S.B., adult protective services specialist II, bachelor’s degree, political science and women's studies

There really are no typical APS days, and they differ from county to county. Grady County is a rural county, and I've been out in the 'boonies' many times trying to find my client. The resources are stretched thinner in counties like this that are away from the bigger cities. Depending on the referral, I carry a bag of hygiene items to give out. I've put the bags together from donations - shampoo, soap, toothpaste and toothbrush, comb, lotion, etc. Our office has fans that were donated, and I always carry one in my trunk as I've already given out many to clients with no air conditioning. I've also been assisting clients with their applications for the Energy Crisis Assistance Program (ECAP).” - M.M., adult protective services specialist II, bachelor’s degree, sociology and criminology

“A typical day starts with checking reports that have come in to be assigned for investigation. This process can take up to an hour for all, depending on how many we have to assign. From there I spend the day checking and reading cases, fielding phone calls from angry clients or family members (and sometimes happy ones), staffing cases with my workers to offer suggestions on service plans to assist the client, returning e-mails, answering questions, assisting in emergency calls or situations in which staff may have been assigned a case that has taken a turn for the worse, attending court hearings as needed, training, meetings and so on. I supervise APS staff in four county offices with a total of 10 staff members, and travel weekly to the outlying county offices." - J.V., adult protective services specialist IV, bachelor's degree, social work

What makes for a successful Adult Protective Services Specialist?

This program is not for the faint of heart or the impatient person. To be an effective APS investigator, one must have patience, compassion, be non-judgmental, creative in finding ways to assist a client, organized, be a huge team player, and willing to drop everything immediately to deal with an emergency or whatever situation may come his or her way. It takes a really special person to do this job, and I feel it has to come from the heart! ” - J.V., adult protective services specialist IV, bachelor's degree, social work

The job is fast paced and often crisis oriented, so they need to be flexible and able to shift priorities at a moment's notice.” - J.L., adult protective services specialist IV, bachelor's degree, social work

Skills needed also include:

  • Creative problem-solving skills; 
  • Time management skills;
  • Tolerance;
  • Patience;
  • Empathy;
  • Good analytical skills;
  • Professionalism;
  • Honesty;
  • Bachelor’s degree; and 
  • Basic computer skills.

Is OKDHS Adult Protective Services for you?

The Adult Protective Services Specialist investigates reports of abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of elderly and disabled adults and provides or arranges services as needed to remedy the problems identified.

Daily work includes interaction with other community professionals, such as doctors, lawyers and court officials, as well as clients, family members and alleged perpetrators. Staff also work with law enforcement to produce cases that can be prosecuted, sending the message that mistreatment of a vulnerable adult - whether physical, emotional or financial - is a serious criminal offense in Oklahoma.

APS is never the same from day to day. You may start out with a plan for the week, then it will have changed by 9 a.m. on Monday morning. It is a job for someone looking for a new challenge or adventure every day.” - K.M., adult protective services specialist II, bachelor's degree, business administration and criminal justice

You never know what to expect when you come to work. When we receive a referral, we have to respond within 3 days, unless it is an emergency, then we have a 4-hour response time. Often, we will go out that same day on non-emergency referrals because we don't know what may come in the next day, and we don't want to be unprepared. The main purpose is making sure our client gets the services and protection that he or she needs." - B.P., adult protective services specialist I, bachelor's degree, accounting

Typical days are hard to find with APS. Every day - sometimes every minute - is something new and different. That's one of the things I love about APS. One day, I could be out in the field investigating 5 or 6 referrals with allegations of caretaker abuse, self-neglect, exploitation or sexual abuse. Every case is different because every person is different. Highs would be being able to assist a vulnerable adult to live in a safer situation or environment, or protect them from someone who has harmed them. Lows would be those times that a client passes away due to abuse and neglect." - S.R., adult protective services specialist III, bachelor's degree, animal science and biology

How to apply:
  1. Visit the Office of Management and Enterprise Services' Human Capital Management Division Web site at (Link opens in new window) and click on OKCareers to view current job announcements for specific locations.

  2. Complete the application on-line. Applicants will be notified by e-mail of the deadline for completing the required merit test to be eligible for consideration.

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