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.
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.