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

Social Worker Awareness Campaign
Social Work Can Make a Difference
But Workers Need the Time to Help

Sept. 2000

by Richard Bermack

The child welfare system is in a state of crisis. There are nowhere near enough social workers to fulfill the mandate of the system, and, as a result, children and families fall through the cracks. Stories of child abuse and the failures of the system are on the front pages of newspapers. Workers have been screaming out that they can't do the job without more help. Workers have demonstrated, gone on strike, and even sued child welfare departments to force them to hire more workers.

The definitive workload study by the California state legislature, authorized by SB 2030, found that the state is not meeting federal guidelines, and that it would take nearly twice as many social workers to satisfy minimal standards and nearly three times as many to do the job according to best practices.

Why Aren't Counties Hiring More Workers?

The False Perception

Why are administrators reluctant to hire more workers even when they have the money? What are the ideological obstacles to the hiring of more social workers that a media campaign needs to address? Here are some of the negative public perceptions that have been identified from a review of the literature and conversations with social workers and media consultants:

• Lack of Accountability: Child welfare agencies are out of control. Social workers take kids for arbitrary reasons and then the family and kids are lost in a bureaucratic nightmare. Children's protective services is shielded in secrecy. The courts are closed to public and media review.

• Anti-Government Sentiment: Government is too large and too expensive already and should be kept out of peoples' private business. The government can't do anything right. It is too bureaucratic and inefficient. Why should the county hire more workers in a system that is so dysfunctional?

• Privatization: Businesses get things done. Businesses are more cost effective. Contracting out is more Contracting out is more popular politically than hiring more county workers.

• Cynicism: You can’t really change people. Social work doesn’t help. The system is just too dysfunctional. Social problems are too great to fix. Increasing spending on the failing child welfare system is like throwing good money after bad.

• It’s None of the Government’s Business Anyway: Keep government out of the home. Parents have a right to raise their kids the way they want. There is no consensus on how to raise or discipline children. The child welfare system is an outsider that has nothing to do with the community.

In response to lobbying efforts by the union, last year the state legislature offered counties an extra $40 million, and this year they increased the amount to $132 million to reduce caseloads. Yet the money goes begging. Many county administrators refuse to hire more workers, and even those counties that want to hire more workers can't find the workers to hire. There are not enough social workers available to fill the need.

Responding to the crisis, the Local 535 executive board Children's Services Committee held a retreat on September 8 to consider launching a Social Worker Awareness Campaign similar to that being conducted by the California Teachers Association.

The Teachers' Campaign

CTA is conducting a million-dollar radio and television campaign aimed at passing Proposition 39, a bond measure to increase school funding, and to defeat Proposition 38, the voucher initiative. Their campaign included polling to define their message and forming coalitions with administrators, local PTAs, community activists, and other stakeholders. As a coalition, they went to the editorial boards of news organizations and mobilized their membership to do massive signature gathering campaigns. Finally they launched a very extensive and expensive media campaign involving radio and TV ads and a web site campaign.

They found the issue that resonated with voters was accountability. Their message: California teachers are doing a great job, but

• Schools need more resources.

• California spends less than other states- kids deserve better resources.

• Every child deserves a decent education and a good teacher.

Literature on Child Welfare Focus Groups

Several organizations have already conducted focus groups to determine the public's perception of child welfare agencies. The results were reported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in its Family to Family, Tools for Rebuilding Foster Care series, Strategic Communications (available at www.aecf.org or by calling 410 547-6600). The following are some of their findings:

• Most people know very little about children's services agencies unless they or a close family member or friend has had some direct experience with the child welfare system.

• People believe that the main mission of the agencies should be to protect children from abuse and neglect when their families are unable or unwilling to do so.

• The public believes that children should be kept in their homes as long as they are safe. People believe strongly that agencies must do a thorough investigation of each case to determine if alleged child abuse and neglect warrant action.

• The most important information to communicate to the general public is the competence of caseworkers.

• Statements about the need for confidentiality will do little to improve public opinion about children's services.

Solution: A Positive Campaign for Change

The Children's Services Committee is proposing the following campaign to educate the public and county decision makers.

The Message: Social work is an exciting, worthy profession that can make a real difference in the lives of children, families, and the community.

• Investing money and resources will produce positive outcomes by rebuilding families, helping troubled parents, reclaiming at-risk children so that they can become healthy, functioning members of society, and creating healthy communities by connecting families with community services.

• Good social work saves money by keeping children out of expensive foster care and the criminal justice system.

• Good social work stops the cycle of abuse, saving future generations from ending up in the welfare or child welfare systems.

• Fostering healthy families is everybody's business. It takes a community.

• Something must be done now. Future generations are being compromised. Child abuse and neglect produces anti-social behavior that impacts the entire community.

•The SB 2030 Study documents that without more workers, all this good work can't get done. To be effective, social workers need the resources of time and services.

•Every child deserves a healthy home life, and we need every child to become a fully functioning member of society. Social work can make a difference.

•Become a social worker and help build the future.

The Campaign:

• Explain to the public what social workers do and share the excitement of the job.

• Link up and form a united front with other stakeholders, such as the California County Welfare Directors Association, children's advocacy groups, the judicial council, and others to carry the message.

Vehicles for Reaching County Decision Makers
and the Public:

• Publish a report similar to Protecting Children, Restoring Families, It Takes Time, which was produced in 1998 and used to lobby state legislators to pass SB 2030.

• Create a traveling photo exhibit of social workers and clients interacting, with short stories or text, to be displayed at public places, libraries, county administration buildings, and offices.

• Promote the campaign through use of new technology such as web site and internet promotion.

We Can Make a Difference

The theme of the proposed campaign will be that social work can make a difference, that we can reclaim the lost members of society, if only workers are given the time to spend with their clients.

SB 2030 Findings

Social Worker Heartbeat