Dragon Info

Child Welfare Articles

Social Worker Awareness Campaign

Overview: Providing Services on the Run

Children's Services Committee Plans Social Worker Awareness Campaign

Social Workers, Foster Kids and Community Suggest Issues

SB 2030 Findings

Special Reports

Dependency Court Overwhelmed

Social Worker Meltdown Series

Protecting Children, Restoring Families, It takes Time


July 2001
Crisis in Transitional Services for Foster Youth -- Independent Living Programs Make a Difference

Housing Is A Major Problem

Leonard Moncure and Jennifer

From Homeless to College Graduate

The social worker may be the only one you can trust

Kathy Garcia: I try to be that one adult a child can feel safe talking to.

February 2001
Assemblywoman Dion Aroner "The union needs to take leadership in providing best practices for taking care of kids and families"

Making a Difference, Jacob Ocampo takes social work to the community

September 2000
Social Worker Awareness Campaign

Riding Along with Bilingual Worker Frederick Machado

Social Worker Heartbeat

February 2000
Are Social Workers Entitled to a Life?
Just Say No to Excessive Overtime


October 1997
Caseload State of Emergency

CWS/CMS Computer Crashes Child Welfare System

Seeing Through The CWS/CMS Mess

February 1997
Adoptions:Parent v. Child

Los Angeles County:Working in the Adoption Factory

Creating New Families

June 1996
Kathleen Schormann and the Unquiet Death of Lance Helms

Family Reunification Workers Speak Out


SEIU Local 535 Dragon--Voice of  the Union-- American Federation of Nurses & Social Services Unioin

Los Angeles County
Working in the Adoption Factory
by Richard Bermack

Margret Lipton looking with distress at a directive from the department
Los Angles County adoption worker and union steward Margret Lipton scowls at one of the notorious department directives. “Last year we lost 34 adoption workers out of 188, and about 15 are on stress leave.”

February 1997

“CSWs who don’t have six placements at the end of this month are behind. Please get them to do as many placements as possible. As a division we are behind. If you can think of any way you may need assistance, see me.” — note from a department deputy
Finding a loving home for a child is the permanent placement worker’s greatest joy. But Los Angeles child welfare workers feel so overwhelmed by high caseloads and voluminous departmental directives, which seem to arrive weekly from the department’s director, that they feel besieged.

Union steward Margaret Lipton, Los Angeles children’s social worker, says, “The emphasis is not on quality adoptions, but on numbers. We are all in favor of adoptions. Our job is to make sure that it is the appropriate placement for the child, but there is so much pressure from the department that we can’t do our jobs. It hasn’t always been like this, but under the current administration, what comes out is pressure for numbers because this administration wants to look good. They want to have the most placements. We have department deputies competing for who has the most placements. It has turned into a factory atmosphere.”

Lipton says that workers often complain that drafts of their reports are changed by their supervisors, on the orders of their deputies or someone higher up. The supervisor will change the whole plan for a child. If the workers refuse to sign the altered reports, they are considered insubordinate. “The workers’ reports are being changed to fit the department’s mission,” Lipton charges.

According to Lipton, workers will go to court so that they can testify under oath, with the court’s protection, about their disagreements with the department’s plans. In response, the department discourages workers from going to court and even threatens to charge them with insubordination if they do go. Lipton feels that the department director is conducting a reign of terror.

Deborah Cotton on the phone
“Our mission is to provide loving homes for abused kids, not to take kids away from parents because they are poor.”
Los Angeles County Adoptions, Deborah Cotton

“Workers in this agency feel like they have two jobs: one to protect clients and the other to protect their jobs,” she says. “It is pretty scary, because you feel that if you don’t dot every ‘I’ and cross every ‘t’ according to policy, then you will get a pink slip. The workers feel like they are always threatened with bad evaluations.

“If they don’t agree with the department’s plan for a child, they understand what will happen, and they are just trying act in the child’s best interest. Maybe a child shouldn’t be in a certain adoptive house, where the person planning to adopt is not the right person, possibly endangering the child. But the person who is trying to adopt will call the right person or grease the right wheels, the board of supervisors, or the director maybe, and the next thing you know the worker gets a call and his hands are tied for the rest of the case. You do all you can without getting fired, but the department makes it very difficult. Workers are reluctant to talk for fear of retaliation. They are really afraid. Last year we lost 34 adoption workers out of 188, and about 15 are on stress leave.”

One worker, who was afraid to use her name, described being threatened: “I had a birth parent who was adamantly opposing the recommended plan of adoption, and the department didn’t want that person coming to the hearing. I was warned that if I informed the parent about the hearing, I would be disciplined. I’ve had parents that could have been reunified and been good parents if the services were provided to them, but the emphasis is no longer on children and family services, the emphasis is on adoption.”