Friday, April 15, 2011

Improving the Foster Care System - Part XXII

A couple of weeks ago, one of my readers sent me a link to this article. I've been meaning to write about it ever since, but my absolutely overloaded work schedule prevented me from giving the story the attention it deserved.

Apparently, social workers are now starting to express worry that if they don't do their jobs properly, they might be arrested.

This worry comes, quite legitimately, after a social worker and her supervisor were arrested for negligent homicide in connection with the death of a child that they were supposed to be supervising.

Now I realize that I blogged about this story before in one of my previous Improving the Foster Care System posts, so I might just be beating a dead horse. Now that I've had a chance to think about it, however, I'm not sure that social workers being scared for their personal futures is necessarily a bad thing.

In my earlier post, I wrote:

Now as much as I dislike most social 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.

Although I still agree that the child's grandmother is primarily responsible, now that I've had a chance to think about it a little more, I'm not sure that prosecuting these workers is entirely a bad thing. Clearly, they didn't do their job, and a kid died as a result.

I've come to the conclusion, after mulling this over for a few weeks, that prosecuting workers in cases like this will probably improve the foster care system, though not for all the reasons you might think. Yes, it certainly will make workers think twice about neglecting their caseloads, and might make them scream a little louder when they need help, which are both important. However, if social workers can be prosecuted for this kind of conduct, it just might open the door for prosecution and perhaps even lawsuits for other kinds of misconduct.

And that, in my mind, can only be a good thing.

In most states, social workers operate under the umbrella of absolute immunity. This means, that with the exception of criminal conduct, social workers are immune from liability for their deeds, even if they were done with bad intentions. If the door is opened, even slightly, so that workers can be punished for their wrongdoings, it will make them all think twice before they make their decisions.

Sure, it will also prompt a lot of ass-covering moves as well, but perhaps, just perhaps, it might make workers wake up to the importance of what they do.

Interestingly enough, SocialWrkr24/7 blogged about this story as well, and she has some interesting things to say:

If I do not do my job – skip homevisits, don’t talk to children privately away from their caregivers, let referrals sit idle on my desk or am dishonest about my actions to my supervisor…

I am being negligent.

If a child dies because I neglected to do the things that could possibly have prevented abuse or neglect…

I will have allowed that death.

But what she says at the end of her post I think is absolutely killer:

I hope that every person who puts in an application...

goes on an interview...

and accepts a job in child welfare...

considers consequences of not doing the job well.

Our children are worth it.

I hope it will one day be so.


  1. While I'm all for holding workers accountable for their fraud, fabrications, falsification of documents, perjury, abuse of power, violations of parental rights, failure to protect, lies, etc, as well as the administrators for the systematic failures, cases like this lead to large increases in child removals, child abuse hysteria, and foster care panic because it becomes a media circus misrepresenting the issue.


  2. This is another reason to require social workers to be *licensed*. I am a registered nurse, and if I make a serious error doing my job and a patient is injured or dies because of it-- there may not be enough proof to convinct me of a criminal act in court, but I will still lose my license. And believe me, nurses are aware of that every moment they are at work. Of course we care about our patients, of course we want to take the best care of them that we can, and that alone is motivation to do the job well-- but needing that license in order to earn a living is another huge motivator to make sure the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed.

  3. Wonder if we could sue the social workers who let our fifteen year old daughter get pregnant while in their care and then not have any prenatal care until the sixth month!

    Nah, instead we were forced to TPR.


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