Welfare Workers Charged in Girl's Death
Two child welfare workers have been charged in connection with the death of a 4-year-old girl they were responsible for monitoring, and authorities said she "might be alive today" if they had done their jobs.
Marchella Brett-Pierce weighed just 18 pounds when she died Sept. 2. Authorities said she was tied to her bed and starved, beaten and drugged.
Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes said Damon Adams, the caseworker who had been assigned to her case before her death, and Chereece Bell, his former supervisor, are charged with criminally negligent homicide, endangering the welfare of a child and official misconduct.
This case is another horrific example of the child welfare system failing to do its job. It's cases like these that make me think we should abolish the system entirely. If children are going to die when they are supposed to be supervised by authorities, then clearly kids aren't necessarily any better off than if they'd been left alone.
I find myself wondering this, since the system manages to do so much damage to birth, foster and adoptive families already. If the system that's supposed to protect kids fails at it so miserably, and manages to destroy the lives of innocent people whose only crime was to be anonymously accused of wrongdoing, perhaps it simply shouldn't exist at all.
Now I know that this is an extreme case. Unfortunately, it happens too frequently to be acceptable, even in our local area. There was a case not too long ago where a child that was under the watchful eye of social workers ended up being murdered by a relative caregiver.
I realize that there were probably a lot of reasons, in this particular case, why the workers involved didn't do their jobs. Maybe their caseloads were too high, and there weren't enough hours in the day to cover all families they were supposed to supervise. Maybe the economic crisis and state budgetary problems left the entire department with too many cases and not enough staff.
Or maybe, just like postal worker Newman in the television show Seinfeld who hid mail in the basement instead of delivering it, they were just lazy.
Clearly the two workers involved were aware that they had screwed up. They attempted to falsify visit records after the child died. Instead of admitting, right off the bat, that they'd missed checking in on the child, they tried to cover their tracks and pretend to have made visits that were never made.
Now as much as I dislike social most workers, and I despise these two in particular for not doing their jobs, I'm not sure that I agree they should be prosecuted for criminally negligent homicide. It's true they did not do their jobs, but I'm not sure that justice is served by holding them accountable for a death that was caused by the child's grandmother.
So how do we prevent this from happening?
Again, the issue comes down to one of money. If the child welfare system was properly funded:
- We wouldn't have jobs that should be performed by LCSWs being done by untrained hacks.
- We wouldn't have social workers making decisions based on expediency, so a kid can be jettisoned from their caseload.
- We wouldn't have such high turnover because good workers would stay because they were being adequately compensated.
- Bad workers wouldn't stay, because management would have the ability to pay competitive wages and benefits to attract the really good people.
- Most importantly, kids in care would get the necessary services and treatments they need, and the foster families who care for them would be motivated to do a good job because they'd be properly trained and compensated.
Perhaps this sounds really extreme, but we as a society wouldn't want to pay for city garbage service that charges to pick up the trash, but then doesn't actually empty the dumpsters. As soon as the garbage started piling up in our streets, people would complain.
So why is it, when kids start dying because social workers don't do their jobs, nobody says a word?