Archive for March 2011
Diary of a Mad Social Worker
The Business of Child Abuse
By Joshua Allen
A few days ago the author was approached by a social worker. The interview covered several topics. The worker wishes to remain anonomous.
We know, this is true for just about every source that speaks with us. There is a lot of fear out there. It shouldn’t be that way; we are writing about child abuse, and the individuals who try to do something about it, the brave ones on all sides who try to make a difference.
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The Young Social Worker got to know Rodolfo as a toddler, just when he was barely able to walk on his new legs. Originally, he was placed into foster care because of a head trauma that caused a subdural hematoma.
The Social Worker was very young and inexperienced, and was only vaguely aware that subdural hematoma was one of the classic symptoms of shaken baby syndrome.
Rodolfo’s parents were undocumented, and only spoke Spanish. Originally, the birth mother blamed Rodolfo’s injury on the babysitter who denied it. The County Department of Children Services did not know whom to believe, and in those days the policy was to remove the child and ask questions later. So Rodolfo was taken from the birth parents (who again, were here illegally) and placed into brand new, recently certified foster home.
The young Agency Social Worker visited the home faithfully once per week and spent a good amount of time getting to know the foster parents and Rodolfo. The worker liked the foster parents, who were always polite and friendly. The home was immaculate as the mother stayed at home with Rodolfo and her other toddler.
Over time, the young Agency Worker was puzzled because the County Social Worker (CSW) had never visited the home or seen Rodolfo. There were a few calls concerning some medical information but she eventually only visited the home one time in about 3 months. The Agency Social Worker continued to visit the home and see Rodolfo week after week, finding the toddler to be in good health, happy, and apparently well cared for.
After 3 months the Agency Social Worker (ASW) received a page (in those days people used pagers) from a doctor requesting permission to take whatever tests he found necessary for Rodolfo. At the time he said he was concerned about meningitis. Later however, Rodolfo was found to have another sub-dermal hematoma in a location different from the original injury, and the doctor believed it was from Shaken Baby syndrome.
Rodolfo was immediately transported to County USC Hospital for more tests. Rodolfo had actually had a seizure while being visited by his real mother and father and they along with the foster parents had followed the toddler from one hospital to another. Eventually, the birth parents, the foster parents, and the Agency Social worker all followed Rodolfo to the next hospital.
Rodolfo was found there to have finger marks on his leg. The young social worker had not seen this before and the marks were recent. The marks looked awful, as if he had been picked up upside down with one hand. Upon seeing this, the doctors became very angry and blamed the social worker for certifying the foster family who continued to deny that anything improper had happened in their home.
At one point the doctor said, “This is Shaken Baby syndrome until I say it’s not!”
There was one slight possibility however. Rodolfo’s previous injury which occurred at another place on his head may have been the cause of this new blood clot in the brain. It would be necessary to compare the images from the first injury to the images from the second.
However, the digital images from the first hospital no longer existed and would need to be reconstructed. The county worker who visited once during the 3-4 month period was not anxious to facilitate this.
The birth parents being undocumented and fearful of making any waves did not press the issue. The agency, glad that the baby was now in another home and the case terminated made no further investigation and were happy to have their hands washed of the whole thing, (in those days the agencies did their own investigations) and the original foster parents were told to seek certification with another agency should they desire. They probably did.
The Agency Worker believes that no further inquiry was ever made and that the case was allowed to fade away. Weeks later the foster-father who had always been polite and appropriate came to the agency and complained that the Agency Worker did nothing to defend them. He became extremely loud and lost his temper which was something never before observed.
The director of the agency put a stop to the meeting and asked the foster parents to leave.
The strongest image of that long night for the Agency worker was when Roldolfo’s quiet and fearful birth parents asked the Agency Social Worker at the County Hospital if they could have permission to see their baby. The Agency Social Worker had no authority and referred the couple to the angry doctor. Roldolfo’s parents then thanked the worker and seemed to believe the foster parents when they said they had done nothing.
Rodolfo may have brain damage; it is many years later and the Agency Social Worker does not know. Often, late at night, he wonders.
We have received a few communications of late about a program called “Wrap Around.” Below are 2 letters the author has received that makes some important points. The author’s comments are in paragraphs and the writer of the email chooses to remain anonymous.
Wrap Around works to keep families together. And in foster care, an abused or neglected child may expect to have up to 3 different individuals visiting them during the week. These individuals are expected to help the child adjust, and or deal with the various problems or difficulties that arise from being placed into a foster home.
Wrap Around seems to have a mixed record, some question the abilities and credentials of the individuals that are hired; (“Para-professionals), others want to know how they are measuring a success rate. Three individuals visiting a home once or twice a week for a single child represent a lot footsteps being tracked around the carpet.
Below is the first email:
I only worked in wraparound for a couple of months, so I cannot give you a very objective view of what’s really going on there, and/ or with other agencies. I had to get out of there because it is a very high paced and aggressive approach to work with families.
Workers, as usual, are pressed to bill weekly hours to DMH, (Department of Mental Health) so there is a lot of “harassment” to the families to make use of the services. The team ( parent partner, child specialist, facilitator, and therapist) meets weekly at the family’s home, and in addition, the parent partner, the child specialist, and the therapist go to the home at least once per week, so in total the family receives wraparound visits up to 4 times a week. (Wow, that’s a lot of billable hours)!
It’s a very intensive program, with the goal of keeping children in the home, and avoiding out of home placements. It’s said to have a 90% success rate. It might be so, but my impression at this agency was not that one. (Hmm, 90% success rate…where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, elections in dictatorships…)
To me, the team was just another extension of a dysfunctional family. Usually what happens are the moms and the parent partner (who is assigned to work with the moms) engage in a battle with the child and the child specialist (who is assigned to work with the child). There is much miscommunication between members of the team, lots of cancellations, errors in scheduling, and disorganization, because each member of the team works on other teams which work with different families. (Got that?) (Just remember, billable hours.)
DMH, probation, parent advocates, and county representatives meet with the team twice a month in order to review the plan and progress of the family. They might have the best of intentions to monitor the effectiveness of these services, but like I said in my prior communication, not everything is brought up on the table. (Gee, I wonder what is not discussed?)
In the short time that I was there, workers were having anxiety attacks, and going on stress leave. A very high turnover. (This is not a rare occurrence, we have seen this at many agencies, especially since musical chair workers are brought in and fired at a ridiculous rate. One agency, for example, almost had a 100% annual turnover rate)
The money assigned for the family is called flex funds, but it is usually given as the last resort, supposedly because they want the families to make use of community resources first.
So in summary, the system not only profits from the families, but also burns out honest workers who initially want to make a difference in these children’s lives, but who ultimately end up running the rat race set up by the system, because they need to earn a living too! And in order to do that they need to bill, bill, and bill. (Well heck, it’s only taxpayer money…)
When did the helping profession paradigm change from service to productivity? Maybe it changed while I was going to school, or maybe things have always been the way they are now; maybe I was too naive in thinking that it was all about helping people.
And with regards to Wraparound services, here is a brief previously published comment from another worker:
“Wrap around programs are supposed to include the community and be extremely flexible. I have had to deal with a lot of wrap around programs. Once in a great while they know what they are doing and try to help the children.
They usually they follow a happy talk formula that does nothing to help the children and create more tension and are more likely to cause a failed placement. They are a waste of funds and time. Most of the families I work with will not accept a wrap around child if they have to continue with wrap around. If they would do something other than there boring meetings and actual follow the Sonoma model they are based on they might be a help.
As it is, it is another stupid program that does nothing (and sometimes) hurts the children.”
So what is one to make of all this? A program paved with good intentions. How dare we criticize our meager efforts to keep families together.
“Does anybody really care?”
The REAL Abused Foster Children of Watts and Compton!
The Business of Child Abuse
By Joshua Allen
Article first published as The Real Abused Foster Children of Watts and Compton on Technorati.
Abused children; they are all shapes, ages, races, and colors. Abused children arrive into foster care tortured, screamed at, beaten, shaken, slapped, whipped, ignored, neglected, raped, burned, sexually molested, driven crazy, and a million other things terrible to imagine and witness.
Adults perpetrate these horrible crimes towards children. And the rub, after these crimes are perpetrated, other adults profits from them – legally! Another rub: Some of these profiteers (and honestly, this is what they are) are considered by many to be pillars of the community. Employees, social workers, foster parents, they see this hypocrisy, and wonder daily why it is tolerated.
So these “pillars,” go on the radio, they pontificate about sacrifice and the various helping programs they run for abused children. Unsaid and unnoticed, their financial cut from all these programs.
They ask for funds and donations from the community with little public audit or oversight, and none from family and friends serving as board members.
They attach themselves to any politician and community organizer they get their paws on to better add legitimacy.
They use race as a means to an end, with the end being money and prestige within the community of choice.
They take donations: Donations, donations, donations! It is good to contribute to abused and neglected children. But do it with a service such as tutoring or lessons, or if the donation is a physical object, insist that it makes its way to the foster child.
They give speeches at wonderful heartwarming self-congratulatory events.
They put spouses in charge while they themselves attend to their outside business interests, all the while continuing to collect six figure full-time salaries.
They continue to act as a consultant to other agencies after being booted from Los Angeles County for malfeasance. Later they open up another agency in a different county because it remains all they can do and nobody stops them. Should a person who “earned” a million dollars in less than 3 years from toiling in the trenches for abused and neglected children be allowed to open up a similar agency just down the street?
They get away with most of their gains while the county seems to content itself with a single year payback and liquidation of that ill-gotten condo. What good does it do to pursue the law or sense of decency?
They have contempt for licensing and auditing agencies which are obsessed with various paperwork, forms, and signature issues while turning a blind eye towards financial malfeasance and questionable child care.
History has taught these “pillars,” how to manipulate books and employment records. It’s not rocket science and they soon learn there is nobody for which they must account for their time. Time cards are filled out like scrap paper.
Board Members – check signers – are friends and family with a long history of their own little deals which they believe is their right each and every year.
We have named some names this past year but not all. https://joshuaallenonline.com/2010/02/24/foster-care-crimes-misdemeanors-and-greed/
Consequently, we have received threats of violence which is annoying.
Others have also received threats in the mistaken notion by these thugs that they were responsible for writing these truths. There is a lot of money at stake, and we know what people will do for money.
We have also received a lot of support from county and agency officials current and retired and all understandably afraid to attach their name or go on the record about any of this.
Los Angeles county officials know all of this and their limited efforts to change things for the better have failed, utterly failed.
There are a lot of reasons for this inaction. Apathy, investigative costs vs. benefits, multicultural politics, stupidity and self-preservation for being part of the pathetic mess. For what could be more pathetic than taking candy from foster children?
One cannot complain about media distortions. Facts have to be reported before they can be manipulated or denied. Apathy by news sources seems a bit incomprehensible, since the amounts of money siphoned from abused and neglected children associated with just a few agencies exceeds the yearly totals looted from the city of Bell California.
Maybe the Feds should investigate since our local authorities don’t seem to be doing much of a job. With all the billions at stake you would think there would be some type of federal consent decree.
It’s not sexy, it’s not much written about, and sometimes we despair there will ever be a light shined on this pathetic malfeasance.
Working with abused and neglected foster children is a calling. Working with these children is not a right. It is not means towards salaries of many hundreds of thousands.
It is not a business built up until a relative or spouse is installed to run things while keeping a six figure salary, but concentrate the majority of your time on personal and private affairs.
It may be the family business, but it is not a private company. The Business of Child Abuse is our business, it is our concern, it is our money, and it is our children who suffer.
And taking money from them must be answered for.
On Child Abuse, Therapy, and “Blood to a Vampire.”
The Business of Child Abuse
By Joshua Allen
To misquote WC Fields; “Therapy to a Social Worker is like Blood to a Vampire.”
Therapy is the number one tool that Social Workers use to assist Abused and Neglected children through the continuing crisis of past and future thoughts, behaviors and feelings that make up the lousy world of a foster child.
It is not always the birth parents that can cause emotional trauma. Even the best intentions of all involved workers and foster parents can and do lead to further anguish as the stricken child is led through the maze of Social Workers, Therapists, Lawyers, Judges, Foster Parents, Birth Parents, Medi-Cal restrictions, indifferent public school teachers and assorted fools and well-meaning dunces to whom they come into contact.
It is the very desperation to help these children that lead to the referral of therapists as one of the first things a Social Worker will do when a new child is put on his or her caseload.
Often, one of the first difficulties to arise concerns the scarcity of Bilingual therapists who can speak the language of the foster child and for that matter the foster parent. The majority of foster children in Los Angeles are of Hispanic parents.
Therapists are frequently interns (Post educational counselors working on their hours to satisfy licensing requirements). These “interns,” are supervised by licensed therapists who hopefully ensure time is well spent while the intern learns their new trade treating foster children.
The quality of these interns varies, and it is in the clinics or individual therapists’ economic interest to keep these children in therapy as long as possible. That does not mean therapists are acting unethically, it only means there is a financial incentive involved, and there are times Medi-Cal is billed for unneeded therapy. A foster child will need to have a minimal diagnosis (such as oppositional defiant disorder) before the government may be billed and such treatment is justified. Some therapists become quite expert in doing just that.
However (and the author can only speak anecdotally), few interns or for that matter therapists have had any significant amount of therapy themselves, and so they are minimally aware of what it is like to sit on the other side of the couch, beyond some of their graduating requirements.
Many would claim that this is not a limitation on the intern’s ability to do good work. Therapy after all is time consuming and expensive and significant results (without the use of psychotropic medications) can take a great deal of time.
The efficacy of therapy for foster children then is something not often discussed, since there are few if any real alternatives or substitutes that can partially make up for why a child is placed in foster care in the first place.
Some children go through so many therapists over the years that they seem to be immune to any of the tools a therapist brings to the table. Abused and Neglected Children may continue with failing grades, dangerous sex, drug use and petty crime until they emancipate or return home to their birth family where things are worse.
This game of “musical therapists,” is something seen with foster children who are in the system for a few years often being placed into half dozen or more homes during that time.
Psychotropic medication often works to help a child but is controversial and many therapists and social workers don’t like them as they believe:
1. The use of psychotropic medications only masks symptoms and fails to deal with the underlying problem; or is too toxic for young livers.
2. Psychotropic medications are used too much as a sort of economical behavior modifying agent.
3. Social workers and therapists may have a societal or cultural influenced prejudice against the use medications in general whenever a child is involved.
Ignorance in this area is not unprecedented within the community of therapists, case workers, politicians and media organizations. The half hour, impossible to get, infrequent appointments with a government psychiatrist doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.
The charge of “Over Medicating,” is so over used and self-satisfying that it often precludes any real discussion regarding pros and cons and becomes a lazy rejoinder to such a complex issue.
Of course, a foster child will always do better in a foster home that is loving, kind, and nurturing.
And that’s not complex at all.