Friday, February 25, 2011

Improving the Foster Care System - Part XV

As I've mentioned before, our state does not require social workers to be licensed if they are going to work in the Child Welfare system. Although a real social worker who possesses a Master's Degree and a license would probably take exception to the practice, anybody who manages cases, makes decisions about birth parents, foster parents, adoptive parents and children generally gets called a "social worker." Now the person's business card might show a different title, but in the day to day doings, these people are all lumped into the same category.

They are "social workers."

And this gets to the point of this week's Improving the Foster Care System post. I believe that every worker should be a licensed social worker. No more should we allow warm bodies with Bachelor's Degrees in Basket Weaving to make life-altering decisions for children.

I have several reasons for this:
  • Workers have absolute immunity. In our state (and I suspect many others) workers have absolute immunity which protects them from liability. If they make a bad call, cause a family undue or unnecessary distress, place a child in a foster home where she is molested, or even killed, the worker is protected from lawsuits. Injured parties cannot go personally after a worker who has hurt someone in the course of her work. Even if a worker deliberately misrepresents the truth, the law gives her absolute immunity from lawsuits. As a result, workers have a huge amount of leeway in what they do, and it rarely comes back on them. With the exception of criminal conduct, workers get away with pretty much everything they want to do.

  • Supervisors almost always back their subordinates. In our experience, complaining to a supervisor about a worker's conduct rarely goes anywhere. If a worker is truly being unethical, unfair, or just a plain old bitch, there's very little point in complaining. The boss will always stand by her employee, even when she's dead wrong, because that's how the system works.

  • The courts do not sanction bad workers. In our case, even when it was clear that Nasty Number Seven wasn't telling the truth in court, nothing bad happened to her. I asked my attorney why the judge wasn't smashing her for perjuring herself, and he replied that the courts are very reluctant to nail people for fibbing - unless the people are birth parents.
So if a worker is immune from consequences for her bad decisions, knows that her supervisor will back her up, and is unlikely to get in trouble with the judge, what's to keep her honest? Hopefully, it's her good character and morals that keep her in line. Unfortunately, as many of us jaded former foster parents have learned, many workers do not possess the character and morals that the job truly requires.

I think workers should be licensed because it gives birth parents, foster parents, adoptive parents and children an independent, third-party place to complain. If a worker is truly being unethical, complaining to the state licensing board might get someone's attention.

If you have a really bad doctor, dentist or therapist, there are licensing boards to which you can complain. Even public school teachers in our state are licensed, and a well-founded gripe to the right agency can land the teacher in the unemployment line. The same should be true for social workers.

Given that social workers have so much discretionary power over the lives of others, a system where they have no accountability for their decisions and actions is clearly a system that is broken.

1 comment:

  1. The US Supreme Court is about to hear a case regarding a social workers power to pull a kid out of school to interrogate and examine them without a parents permission. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals already ruled that this was a 4th Amendment violation and that social workers as government employees were subject to the same constitutional laws as police officers.

    Cross reference that with this, which is the mentality that they use to justify putting innocent families through an investigation.

    Too many people who have never experienced the system and who don't have a clue buy into this mentality.



I love to get comments from my readers. Please be aware that comment moderation is on and there may be a delay between the time you post your remarks and the time they appear on the blog.

If you would like your comment read and/or published, sign your name to it and play nice.