mississippi double exposure red wingThank you Brandon Stahl for drawing attention to the sadness I witnessed again and again as a volunteer CASA guardian ad-Litem; children re-abused and children re-entering the child protection system at double the national rates.  Some counties did much worse.  

New Federal fines are today’s punishment ($750,000) for Minnesota’s failure to meet federal standards (since 2007) of social workers not visiting children while they are in foster care and for abused children re-entering the Child Protection System within a year.  Some state’s are facing embarrassing and costly class action lawsuits for not keeping foster children safe.

One of my guardian ad-Litem boys had 29 different foster and shelter placements before he aged out of foster care.

To know the child walking around starving and without shoes during the winter is different than reading about her.

Watching our policy makers support billions of dollars for stadiums, giant new transit systems, and the unnecessary billion dollar cost of the failed 35W bridge (because anti tax people saw to it that the 5 million dollars in bridge maintenance money was a tax too high for them) while traumatized children can’t find governmental support for safe homes or mental health services seems to me like poor governance.

Art Rolnick’s work at the Federal Reserve bank in 2003 proved that early childhood investments were the best money a government could spend.  My experience within the child protection system proved repeatedly that Art Rolnick’s early childhood research was conservative.  I worked with multiple cases that cost the County in excess of one million dollars apiece and know that the pain and dysfunction continued with that child long after leaving the system (and as a continuing burden to taxpayers).

The child protection system we have today is very expensive, not transparent or accountable, and painful for just about everyone involved in it.

Where’s the money to come from is asked again and again.  That is not the right question.

Do we value children as much as stadiums and transit is more accurate.  Do we have a grounded understanding of what a better functioning system would look like?

Are the people in the system willing to share their insights and be more open about what’s working and what needs improvement?

When Dee Wilson from the Casey Foundation delivered the recommendations for Hennepin County Child Protection at the County Commissioners briefing at the courthouse, he pointedly remarked that social workers were fearful and un-trusting within their working environment.  Especially now with investigations and media coverage of system failures, worker bees feel like they are under the microscope and responsible for all the problems in child protection.

They are not responsible for the systemic institutional failure to protect children – and it is wrong and counter-productive to think it is.

 

The fault lies in governance at the top, with a lack of awareness, transparency, accountability and the courage to face wicked problems.  Until we who make these rules & policies demand transparency within foster care and child protection, there is little chance of long term improvements taking hold.  

There are 11,000 children in our state’s foster care system today.  To the degree that they can find safe homes and heal from the traumas they have suffered from, our state will benefit from the taxes they pay and great things they do for their community as they enter adulthood.

Minus safe home and healing, Minnesota will pay more federal fines, be embarrassed in the media and suffer from our state wards remaining state wards as they age out of foster care (80% of youth aging out of foster care lead dysfunctional lives).

Prisons are a direct cost (500+million dollars annually in our state) the costs of crime go way behind dollars to the victims, their families and neighbors – often destroyed lives.

Quality of life and safe communities suffer the most from troubled children becoming troubled adults.  When awful things happen to you, your children, friend  or parent – these questions will matter much more than they do today.

Let’s stop asking where’s the money and start asking about what we can do to become more aware of the issues impacting the youngest and most vulnerable among us.

 

All adults are the protectors of all children  

Forward this to your favorite governing official (or share it widely)

 

 

 

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Mike,

    Your blog post today says: “The child protection system we have today is very expensive, not transparent or accountable, and painful for just about everyone involved in it.

    Where’s the money to come from is asked again and again. That is not the right question.”

    I fear the problem is even worse. The money will not be forthcoming until those who could provide it have reason to expect that it will be well spent. But the system seems to be dysfunctional, seems to be spending its money so poorly, that those who hold the purse strings believe that more money would be spent with equally poor efficiency, i.e., would be largely wasted.

    Imagine the current CPS system as an individual person who has been starved to the point that she is chronically sick with serious, debilitating parasitic infections: gangrene, lice, intestinal worms, and bacteria causing sepsis. Her body is being drained of its potential energy by the parasites that have taken advantage of the weakness brought on by financial starvation. Consequently, she is accomplishing little except to keep herself alive–barely. “Give me more food [i.e., money],” she pleads. But the parasites have so well established themselves that “more food,” which for an organization translates into “more money,” would be consumed almost entirely by the parasites, leaving her no stronger than before.

    What’s needed to bring a very sick human patient back from the edge of starvation is antibiotics and expensive nursing care as well as food. If the patient is at the edge of collapse, food alone is not enough.

    What is the organizational equivalent of the antibiotics and nursing needed, in addition to money, to bring CPS back from its paralysis? Who and what are the “parasites” that must be dislodged? I don’t have the answers, but I suggest that we, collectively, need to ask and to answer those questions. The people who could put more money into CPS–ultimately, the taxpayers–are not likely to do so when it appears to them (correctly?) that the present funding is being spent inefficiently, is being spent in ways that do more to protect the jobs of the bureaucrats than to protect the children.

  2. http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/11202112/story.html

    This morning I was advised of the deaths of 4 additional children in the Province of Alberta with ties to Ministry. My heart sinks. I am in the midst (again) of attempting to communicate with Leaders on this and related matters. Words fail me because promises in the absence of commitment to change outcome is nothing short of betrayal. Until/unless accountability transpires, children will continue to come to harm and the tally of fatalities will grow; 779 children reflects acceptance of continued genocide.

    https://www.change.org/p/force-rcmp-to-do-a-criminal-investigation-of-children-s-aid-and-the-alberta-justice-lawyers-who-helped-hide-the-deaths-of-685-foster-children-from-the-public

    In a separate media article, I see that one Government has taken concrete action to effect responsibility by holding employees to account. This is a measure that needs to be visited by all authorities with vested interest in preserving the lives of our youth:

    “New Federal fines are today’s punishment ($750,000) for failure to meet federal standards of social workers not visiting children while they are in foster care and for abused children re-entering the Child Protection System within a year.”

    http://www.invisiblechildren.org/2015/07/10/foster-care-standards-are-important-minnesota-fined-for-failures/#sthash.wplFEotk.JsTp6Xz4.dpbs

    Canada needs to take action! Premier(s) what is your plan for implementation to achieve wellness?

    Sincerely,

    Velvet Martin,
    Founder of Samantha’s Law
    Spokesperson for Protecting Canadian Children
    http://www.protectingcanadianchildren.net/

  3. I am just going to say, I don’t like the comment stating social workers fail the children!!!!! that is far from true, yes we are overloaded with cases, but a good social worker, (AND MIGHT I SAY I AM A DAMB GOOD SOCIAL WORKER) fights to the death to remove kids from abusive homes as well as attempting to not put them in a bad foster care situation, have you ever tried to do this, it is a bunch of buracratic crap, we the socilal worker/case workers do our part investigating, documenting, reporting ECT… and then all of our hard work is to no avail as we have supervisors to report to who are unconcerned and will not allow us to fully do as we feel best to do, then you have the ignorent court system that looks the other way and feels it is ok only to send a horrid abusive parent to take parenting classes which are in themselves a JOKE!!! then the child is abused again, it is reported, court gives child back after many reports of abuse, social worker fights for child, social worker is repremanded and removed from case simply for caring and doing our job, parent takes yet another BS class and child is abused and killed, parent spends short time in jail, agency that allowed child to be retuned basically says, we made an oopsy and should have looked into it better!!!!! In mean time social worker is mad as hell because they stated their thoughts and were removed from the case unfairly, as far as foster care, it’s a BIG FAT JOKE!!!! they are not at all looked into, not at all monitered, and when agency does come they have children so scared to say anything to the social worker as they are threatened long before social worker shows up (AND A GOOD SOCIAL WORKER SUCH AS MYSELF SEES RIGHT THROUGH THIS BS BUT IS HELPLESS TO DO ANYTHING BECAUSE SUPERVISORS DON’T WANT TO HEAR THIS BECAUSE IT ADDS MORE WORK AND GOD KNOWS WE CAN’T HAVE THEM MOVE AWAY FROM THEIR DESK TO DO REAL WORK, and i hate the fact you have to call first and let them know your coming, if we were allowed to just show up a lot more abuse would be discovered, , but these are obtacles we face and why we can’t properly protect these kids as we would like, THIS CRAP NEEDS TO CHANGE, LAWS NEED CHANGED!!! These kids are innocent and need our help, I have tried until I can try no more to change these idiot laws and rules, BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT WORKING!!!!!! and many foster parents are not checked on or looked into as they should not be fostering and reabusing these kids as they do, as they see them as just another paycheck and that shit needs to stop!!!!! I am not saying there are not good foster parents out there as there are many, but there are also too may bad ones. Well, that is my opinion

  4. From Invisible Children’s Linked in Conversation on this article;

    Stan
    I see it in San Diego as well-so sad!

    Eric
    Unfortunately it happens all the time. Foster carers fail children daily, social workers fail children, the courts fail children, it’s almost like a large number of professionals see the job as just that, “A job”. No consideration for the children involved, social workers complain that they have to visit children in care every six weeks, when they do visit they spend the time talking to the carer and five minutes with the children.

    There is very little commitment anymore, we have become a nation of talkers, we talk a good job while doing nothing.

    “Lets have a meeting to discuss having a meeting to discuss an agenda for a meeting about the child”. These same social workers will moan about their workload, moan about paperwork, moan about policies. We have to change the focus away from how hard done by social

    Blessing Simango

    this is a common issue where by the state fails to pay foster care fees and the necessary resources to ensure that government social workers fails to pay regular monitoring visits to see whether the best interest of children placed in foster care are being upheld or their aspirations are being thrown from the frying pan to the hot fire

    Michele
    I am just going to say, I don’t like the comment stating social workers fail the children!!!!! that is far from true, yes we are overloaded with cases, but a good social worker, (AND MIGHT I SAY I AM A DAMB GOOD SOCIAL WORKER) fights to the death to remove kids from abusive homes as well as attempting to not put them in a bad foster care situation, have you ever tried to do this, it is a bunch of buracratic crap, we the social worker/case workers do our part investigating, documenting, reporting ECT… and then all of our hard work is to no avail as we have supervisors to report to who are unconcerned and will not allow us to fully do as we feel best to do, then you have the ignorant court system that looks the other way and feels it is ok only to send a horrid abusive parent to take parenting classes which are in themselves a JOKE!!! then the child is abused again, it is reported, court gives child back after many reports of abuse, social worker fights for child, social worker is repremanded and removed from case simply for caring and doing our job, parent takes yet another BS class and child is abused and killed, parent spends short time in jail, agency that allowed child to be retuned basically says, we made an oopsy and should have looked into it better!!!!!

    In mean time social worker is mad as hell because they stated their thoughts and were removed from the case unfairly, as far as foster care, it’s a BIG FAT JOKE!!!! they are not at all looked into, not at all monitered, and when agency does come they have children so scared to say anything to the social worker as they are threatened long before social worker shows up (AND A GOOD SOCIAL WORKER SUCH AS MYSELF SEES RIGHT THROUGH THIS BS BUT IS HELPLESS TO DO ANYTHING BECAUSE SUPERVISORS DON’T WANT TO HEAR THIS BECAUSE IT ADDS MORE WORK AND GOD KNOWS WE CAN’T HAVE THEM MOVE AWAY FROM THEIR DESK TO DO REAL WORK, and i hate the fact you have to call first and let them know your coming, if we were allowed to just show up a lot more abuse would be discovered, , but these are obtacles we face and why we can’t properly protect these kids as we would like, THIS CRAP NEEDS TO CHANGE, LAWS NEED CHANGED!!!

    These kids are innocent and need our help, I have tried until I can try no more to change these idiot laws and rules, BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT WORKING!!!!!! and many foster parents are not checked on or looked into as they should not be fostering and reabusing these kids as they do, as they see them as just another paycheck and that shit needs to stop!!!!! I am not saying there are not good foster parents out there as there are many, but there are also too may bad ones. Well, that is my opinion

    Diane Edwards
    I agree with the statements in these articles. SOME social workers, teachers and psychologists give a damn but lots DO treat it all as just a job. I am currently involved in doing foster and kinship care reviews. I see, I hear, I report and alas things haven’t changed for the children. I see many occasions where Supervisors and Team Leaders don’t care and actually LIE.

    Until the “caring professions” are made to be registered, especially in Australia, and are held to account by their profession, the lack of action will continue and the children and young people will continue to suffer for their incompetence.

    I am proud to be a social worker but am horrified as to the training current social workers receive at their respective universities. Significant change needs to occur on multiple levels!!

  5. Yula

    I know negative feedback is necessary as a wake-up call for either state social workers needing more help or increase the number of social workers to cut down on the load of cases. A state shouldn’t have to be fined before it finds out that its system is failing its precious future ~ the tax payers of tomorrow and future law-makers.

    Robert
    Emergency Response Coordinator
    very sad..are these licensed social workers or social service workers?

    Gretta

    Our children deserve the best, our parents , social workers and foster parents deserve better support and education access to protect our children. Front end investment has proven over and over again to serve families well but its the 1st to get cut, no federal funds to support it so counties say they cant afford it, in the long run it cost more to house many of our children in jail, when will we learn???? Our community also has to do it’s part to keep our children safe. It takes the village to keep them safe

    Kimberly
    Chief Editor
    Author of Inspirations from the Heart

    Thank you for sharing this information. I was unaware of this.Any suggestions on preventing this in the near future? Diverse ( different guidelines) screening strategies perhaps ? Policy, approaches? Should there be more awareness within early childhood.Often times children are enrolled and teachers are not aware situations .Directors and or enrollment specialist may have a little information…however, it is important to stay connected with the social worker weekly, do you agree?

    Donna
    Team Social Worker

    Florida fails it’s foster children too. I’ve witness it personally

    Desiree
    CEO

    If parents and foster parents can be charged for abuse and neglect, county workers should bear some responsibility as well. They are getting income for failing our children while keeping a job, parents and foster parents are held responsible and lose everything. Its not right for them to keep their job for work that can’t do the work.

    Charles
    FASD Speaks inc

    This has been going on ever since I was in foster care in the 70’s in Minnesota. It’s about time this was done.

  6. Another Linked In Thread on this discussion;
    Eric

    Janet a very fair comment nicely put. Until we take hold of the problem instead of being part of the problem, things are not going to change.

    Daniel LCSW
    To answer the question, the direct response is no. Professionals that work with children are always paid the least. So while the policy and red tape often hinder the outcomes and the ability for a caseworker to do their job, there are other component that are often ignored. Low pay means that those that are good or need to feed their own families will not stay long. Older more experienced workers are more likely to stand up and fight, the young fresh out of college workers don’t have the experience to do so and end up doing whatever management says regardless of the best interest of the child. Older workers usually have to leave for better paying jobs, often leaving the profession leaving young inexperienced workers. Caseloads are always too much, you can rarely ever keep up which means when there is a crisis, other kids get neglected.

    Unfortunately, the smart social workers that need to feed a family of their own will get their LCSW and go into something that pays more like hospitals and private practice. Many states now hire human service workers to do the job who barely have an AA degree and no training, but they save money. The other problem is it is rare to have a manager that actually knows anything about managing and mental health.

    I’ve seen many times that the workers who screw up end up being promoted to manager. Managers also rarely have any real power and those with the power are often clueless about the realities of the job.

    It’s about keeping things out of the media, not let any child die, and do it all as cheap as possible. I was actually kicked off a state foster care review board once because I stood up for the kids best interest.

    I had the nerve to question managers on their job performance. I was also the only one on the board that had experience as a social worker, a supervisor, and a foster parent. The answer is to pay for qualified social workers, give them a manageable caseload, and make sure the pay matches other professions. A masters level social worker should be making at least as much as a masters level teacher, actually both should get paid much more.

    If kids were a priority, then those who work with them would be treated better. Helping a child in need may prevent a lot of expense when they become an adult. Many of those in the system who get substandard care often end up in prison, then we really pay. I left working for child welfare simply because I needed to feed my family without standing in line alongside clients at the welfare office.

    Eric
    Daniel? Really? social workers in the UK on a starting salary of £28K, that is not a low salary, foster carers on £300 per week per child, that is not a low salary. Our kids in the care system get neglected because workers are too busy talking and not doing enough “Action” I have managed LCSW and it is one of the easiest jobs in social care, very little action, lots of talk. I say again, there are some good workers out there and there are some bad workers out there.

    The one constant is that they are all paid well, as are all workers in social care, far more than nurses who have to train for longer and do longer hours, Sorry but lets not pretend that we are all hard done by, we are not.

    Mary MSW
    Eric J. – Have you spent anytime in the United States? You base your response on salaries in the U.K.

    Those statistics do not apply here. Master’s level social workers are not compensated commensurate with their education.

    The caseloads are more than any one person should be asked to handle. Funding for services in the community has been cut so many times that there are few choices and those that have remained open must be watched carefully for neglectful, abusive care. Not only are we failing children in the system, we are failing the mentally ill, disabled and the aged. The United States should be ashamed of the social services offered. Do not blame case workers! The system is terribly flawed.

    Erika
    Thank you Daniel and Mary! All true. Unfortunately. It’s the children and the families who suffer most when we can’t do everything that is required to help them. There is so much to be said about this topic and it often gets overlooked. Thanks for putting it on the table! Keep up the good work and don’t forget to take care of yourselves!

    Daniel LCSW
    One thing that would probably help and make a difference in the US is for workers to go on strike. Yes I know this causes a potential problem in ethics but if all welfare workers/social workers stopped and protested on a regular basis, this may force the system to change things and start listening to those that know the clients best.

    Nurses years back stood up, went on strike and the results were better pay, more respect, and changes in policy that benefited the nurses and their patients. THere needs to be a revolution. The main reason nothing changes is because the workers don’t stand up for themselves and those who make policy don’t understand the cost savings for investing in children.

    Not investing in children means that long term there are more costs in repeated behaviors and involvement in criminal system. We need to educate the powers that be and demand a change. Until then everything remains the same…

    Daniel LCSW
    Eric… I did think about going to the Uk because the pay was a bit better than the US with better benefits, UK agencies often recruit from US. Here in the US with a masters degree, advanced training (6+yrs of university), and board certification (licensing), child welfare positions might offer $25,000 which is around 16,000 GBP.

    When I did foster care we were paid a max of $20 (that’s around 12 GBP) a day per child, and that was a private agency that paid far more than child welfare/state which was around $4 a day.

    I believe that when the UK started demanding qualified social workers, the pay rates rose and policy changed to improve the system…… Given the right opportunity I still would entertain taking a job in the UK.

    Jo
    in my opinion pay is not high for social workers – a cleaner can earn £15 per hour! Not demeaning cleaning but hardly comparable!

    And teams (particularly CP teams) are short staffed due to high & unsustainable caseloads & often poor management/supervision! Which contributes to drifts in childrens care plans – due to having constantly changing SW’s or none at all! A

    dd on lack of resources leaving SW’s with few tools, if goverments cared about children/young people, money would be poured in & not taKen! Also I have not had a payrise in 3 years & the cost of living rises daily! Not good incentives for NQSW’s

    Anne
    I have to agree with you there, social workers are extremely under paid! We work way over our contracted hours without any extra pay, and often take our work home with us. Case loads continue to rise, with many social workers leaving the local authorities due to poor pay and high case loads, making the situation worse.

    it’s time something was done, and social workers given the recognition they deserve. A significant increase in pay and a more manageable caseload is long overdue. But will this ever happen???

    Daniel LCSW
    It can IF…as a collective, social workers stand up and demand a change. A strike, unionizing, protesting, educating, etc. Part of the problem is too many social workers, (usually the young, inexperienced, and single) believe it is against sw ethics to stand and fight for themselves. SW’ers also fear they will loose their job if they speak up and if they sis a strike they would worry about neglecting their clients. Standing up now will help clients in the long run….. change can happen if we start advocating for ourselves.

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