Friday, October 9, 2009

Returning to regularly scheduled programming...

This will be my last public post about all of this (at least for a while). I do not want to argue and debate and fall into a pattern that, in the end, serves no one. But here are my closing words:
To your question about what I do to try to change the system:

First, let me make it clear - Social Workers have absolutely no authority to remove or keep a child out of their parents care. CP Investigators can legally place a child in protective custody for only 48 hours. After that, every single decision about how long a child is in care is up to a JUDGE. In my experience, caseworkers are the lowest rung on the ladder and while they do have some power to make recommendations in court, Judges will make their own decisions despite our best efforts to the contrary. And if you want to start a petition about judges who do not follow appropriate mandates - I will be happy to sign it.

I have absolutely reported social workers when I felt their decisions were unfair or unethical. It has not happened often - but I have even had to leave a job over it. I also hope in the near future to be a Supervisor again, so that I can have more authority over the staff who are working with the families. I have never met anyone who receives ANY extra money for an adoption. Like I said before -In my experience, while the agency may receive money, I likely wouldn't even be aware of if I hadn't read about it on blogs such as Divotdawg's. The workers never see a penny of it and therefore we have no incentive to care about it.

I absolutely advocate for birth parents to have their children returned home to them. And because I work in the system, and hold their cases, every child I've ever recommended it for has gone home. In fact, twice I have had to aggressively advocate for a goal to be REVERSED from TPR in order for the child to return home. I did this because it was obvious to me that the parents had never gotten a fair chance, the children still wanted to return home, and it was in their best interests.

When a child does not return home - that is a FAILURE and I feel my part in it. I have only recommended termination of parental rights twice - both times were miserable experiences. Both were also horrendous cases and the parents had been given over 3 years to complete services without doing so. I still advocated that they have contact with their parents and the one I have kept in touch with still sees his mother on a regular basis.

And there are huge and scary ramifications for social workers when they are accused of wrong doing. Sanctions, fines, mediation, agency penalties, loss of our licenses, loss of our jobs, and even jail time is possible if we act unethically or fail to follow procedure. We all have to carry malpractice insurance just like doctors do and are held to extreme scrutiny when things go wrong on a case! I know someone who returned a child home and that child was then beaten to death by their parent - it has been 2 years and she is still having to rehash it constantly before review boards, lawyers, and death panels. Its horrifying and traumatizing for her - but she says that she is glad that the checks and balances are in place. She wouldn't wish the guilt on her worst enemy - even though she has been repeatedly cleared on any wrong doing.

I would NEVER suggest that I or any other social worker (or person for that matter) was without flaws, mistakes, or sin. I am WELL aware that I am not God. If I had even half the power of God there would be no need for a child welfare system at all and I would go be a preschool teacher or nanny or toll booth operator. And I would be perfectly happy with that. I would be thrilled if foster care and adoption were never necessary and children always grew up with their two loving parents.

Sadly, that is not the case in reality.

And just as parents sometimes make choices that end up hurting children, so do the rest of us. And as I have said many, many times before - even when parents make those mistakes and hurt their children - it does not mean they did not love and care about them. We humans are prone to losing sight of the big picture and acting rashly according to our emotions.

I see it in a parent who gets angry and lashes out at their child.

I see it in the social worker who is fearful of a child being hurt again and doesn't stop to see the efforts a parent is making to change.

I see it in the foster parent who falls in love with a child and can't imagine letting them go.

I see it in the adoptive parent who speaks as if parents were as interchangeable as shoes for a child. (If this were the case, why do we put ID bracelets on babies in hospitals?)

All of these flawed humans put together makes a very flawed system - and sadly, the child is the only one who never had a choice in the matter.

At the end of the day - do I think that I will single handedly change the system? No.

MANY things need to change before we could even come close to saying the Child Welfare really works in the best interests of children and families. But I do believe I am doing my part, both for the families I service personally and in my actions within an agency and the system as a whole.

Grasshopper really said it the best though - when we insist on an "all or nothing" perspective, we diminish our own credibility as well as our capacity to really evoke change. Let's all focus on trying to see the whole elephant okay? ;)

If anyone would like to continue this conversation - please feel free to email me at socialwrkr_247 @ live(.)com .

This blog is returning to its regularly scheduled programming....

1 comment:

  1. I finally posted again.... if you want to see my new little sweeties. I am doing amazingly fine with the loss of the twins.


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