Turtleboy Investigates

Joe Social Worker Responds To Vermont Social Worker’s Assassination In Light Of Auburn Tragedy

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Note from Turtleboy Management: A week or two ago we published a blog from an anonymous DCF worker known as Joe Social Worker. It was eye opening to many, but elicited a lot of comments that Joe wanted to follow up on. He wrote us an email last week that one of our dumbass interns forgot to mention. It was in response to some of the comments and the recent shooting of Lara Sobel, a Vermont social worker who was murdered by an angry parent of a child in DCF care. In light of the recent incident in Auburn, we’re publishing his follow up email.

Hello Turtle Boy and followers!

Joe Social Worker returning with the biggest heartfelt THANK YOU to TBS and the public who embraced the Joe Social Worker open letter and offered your support, questions, and even your criticisms. It was truly eye opening to hear the public’s interpretations of our letter, detailing day in the life of Joe Social Worker.

TBS wrote in a recent blog post that they were willing to be the voice of the employer who is too scared to lose their job to speak the truth about their employment. Joe Social Worker’s embodies Turtle Boy’s call for action, and thus reinforces the overall Turtle Boy Revolution.

We wish to work with TBS towards establishing a sense of connectedness between the Commonwealth’s Child Protection Agency and the members of the general public who wish to work collaboratively with us to increase the knowledge of the truth of our work, and what YOU can do to aid us in the ultimate goal of safety for all children.

However, there was much speculation on the letter in the comments sections that Joe Social Worker would like to address today. Please understand prior to reading this that this post is based on the opinion of a semi-experienced social worker and although Joe believes to speak his opinion on behalf of all social workers at Massachusetts DCF, many of the following statements may be subject to personal opinion or interpretation of individual social workers:

1. Social workers receive extra money for each child they take into state custody. 

FALSE. That is a ridiculous and frankly, uneducated assumption. There is no commission in social work. We are paid a salary based on work experience, education level, licensing lecel, and personal negotiations with our agency and Union. Our salaries are in no way influenced by our caseload and the type of cases within it.  If anything, social workers become more frowned upon by our superiors for having cases that could not be safely stabilized with services and safety planning prior to an incident that led to the state seeking legal custody of a child/children. In addition, cases where the Department takes children into legal custody and the resulting foster care result in more work hours dedicated to the legal aspects responsible for the child/children’s case that hinder the social worker’s ability to apply time, effort, and thus good case management, to their other other cases.

2. Social workers only work 120 hours per month. 

FALSE. But umm, whoops, that was my bad. Joe Social Worker obviously majored in a social work related field and not math.

Social workers technically get paid for working 7.5 hours per day, 5 days per week, resulting in a salary that is based on a 37.5 hour per week contract agreement. Some social worker a work flex schedules based on education or child care needs, so this varies on an individual basis.

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3. Joe Social Worker and his fellow DCF worker colleagues “don’t care.” 

TRUE AND FALSE. Many comments of the blog seem to praise Joe while simultaneously condemning social workers they have had experienced with who are not as suave as Joe in the area of expressing their feelings. Sorry critics, not all DCF workers can be as open, honest, and well spoken as Joe Social Worker in articulating their emotions towards the job. Also, not all social workers give as huge of a shit as Joe in assuring their emotions are accurately articulated.

Many DCF workers care JUST as much, if not, more so, than Joe Social Worker, about the wellbeing of children and their families. This sense of passion can be evident in their work and their family/social worker interactions. Trust me, the good guys fucking exist.

Many other DCF workers care just as much as Joe does, but are unable to express this. This apparent void of emotion is often a result of an individual Social Worker’s case management style (meaning that many DCF workers who present as distant and uncaring feel they are doing their families a disservice by holding their hands throughout the case process).

Others may appear they do not care due to their own personality characteristics (meaning that, believe it or not, social workers are human beings too, and have character defaults such as an inherent shyness, coldness, or unapproachability, etc., that mask a social workers true empathy for struggling families and give off an “IDGAF” attitude).

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Most, though, may appear as though they don’t care because they have been on the job long enough to have developed a sense of disassociation with their families due to their becoming too attached to prior cases and families in the past. This is an evolutionary defense mechanism that even the almighty social worker is susceptible to. Too many of us have been burned while advocating for families to ultimately disappoint and sabotage their own outcomes. Enough of this grief can result in a social worker who is unable to express emotion to clients when it is needed the most.

The inevitable truth is that some social workers legitimately do not give a fuck. The same way that your local post man does not really fucking care whether or not your bill arrives on time, or your accountant could give honestly give a shit whether or not you save on your tax returns, some social workers do not give a shit whether or not your family is ultimately successful.

Please understand that these are the very few minoriry of social workers in the field. Many of the Joe Social Workers who fall in the above mentioned categories resent these DCF works who have developed such a sour reputation for the rest of us.

4. Only scum bags who knowingly bring children into this world without the ability to care for them, or who wish to receive a monetary compensation for the birth of their children, are at fault for even the notion of a development of a child protection agency.

FALSE, FALSE, FALSE.

Joe Social Worker would like to extend his deepest apologies to anyone who has felt like our open letter may have been addressed to this minority group of people.

YES, TRUE, those of you who make the decision to bring children into this world solely for a welfare benefit should burn in hell (sorry, but not sorry, on behalf of all social workers). As was stated in Joe Social Worker’s previous open letter, individuals who are sexually active and not at liberty to parent children in a safe and nurturing way, should immediately seek birth control and/or sterilization prior to bringing innocent children into this world.

HOWEVER, as was also stated in Joe Social Worker’s initial open letter published by TBS, DCF serves a wide array of clientele, many of whom have been through tougher shit than any of us could imagine, usually encompassed with a lack of social support and appropriate coping skills, which inevitably leads to DCF involvement.

The hard truth is that no one wakes up in the morning with the intention of being an abusive or neglectful parent. Shit happens. GOOD SOCIAL WORKERS are trained to interpret a situation like this, empathize with the family, and plan to instill a set of parenting skills and safety so DCF does not need to come back next time shit pops off at home.

FILE - In this Tuesday Dec. 17, 2013 file photograph, Elsa Oliver is escorted into the courtroom for her arraignment in Fitchburg District Court Tuesday, in Fitchburg, Mass., on charges of reckless endangerment of a child and accessory after the fact of assault, in regards to her missing 5-year-old son, Jeremiah Oliver. A judge ordered Oliver's boyfriend, Alberto Sierra, held without bail Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013 in the case.  The child was last seen by relatives months ago. (AP Photo/Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Rick Cinclair, Pool)

FILE – In this Tuesday Dec. 17, 2013 file photograph, Elsa Oliver is escorted into the courtroom for her arraignment in Fitchburg District Court Tuesday, in Fitchburg, Mass., on charges of reckless endangerment of a child and accessory after the fact of assault, in regards to her missing 5-year-old son, Jeremiah Oliver. A judge ordered Oliver’s boyfriend, Alberto Sierra, held without bail Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013 in the case. The child was last seen by relatives months ago. (AP Photo/Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Rick Cinclair, Pool)

5. The Department of Children and Families can and will provide the ultimate case management services and resulting level of support and safety for every child, and thus every family, we are involved with.

DUH NO FALSE.

Read a TBS article or two and you will realize that that is simply impossible. Even if caseloads weren’t too high and social workers weren’t overworked and families fucking appreciated our efforts and gave their ultimate best, that is not fucking reality, nimrods. Open your eyes.

6. Not reporting concerns of child abuse or neglect is the best option.

NO, NIMRODS, NO, FALSE

Joe Social Worker would like to make it very clear that it is not only the right, but the responsibility of the community to be the voice for the children who are possible victims of abuse and neglect at the hands of their caretakers.

If you suspect a child in your community to be a victim you need to call the Child At Risk Hotline (open 24/7), or the local police via direct line or 911, to make a report of abuse or neglect of a child.

All reports are ANONYMOUS and CONFIDENTIAL and could mean the difference between a child living or dying. As dramatic as this may read, it is nonetheless the hard truth that a reported child could be saved from a morbid fate.

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7. Reporting concerns of child abuse or neglect will result in the child being saved and/or removed from a dangerous situation. 

Unfortunately, FALSE.

The Department of Children and Families is limited by legal precedents that can make removing a child from a potentially dangerous situation extremely difficult and frustrating.

DCF workers not only need to have enough information to locate a reported family, but be granted access into the allegedly dangerous home by the homeowner, establish evidence of abuse or neglect of a child that is 1) dangerous to the safety, and/or 2) threatening wellbeing of the child,  and must later present that evidence in a court of law.

Even if a child is removed from what appears like an emergency situation, DCF risks that child later being returned to their potentially dangerous home in court by a judge if it is found that the state has failed to present evidence to support the case, which results in the child returned to their potentially dangerous caretaker, and later, less likely to be removed from their home a second time (even after evidence is established) due to the state’s lack of credibility in a court of law.

8. Citizens of a community file 51A reports based on unfounded information/with alternative motives all the time.

UNFORTUNATELY, VERY FUCKING TRUE.

I cannot tell you how many times I have worked with families who have had a 51A report (official term for a report of abuse and/or neglect of a child) filed on them with DCF by an angry neighbor, scorned lover, retaliatory friend/family member, etc.

51-a-and-school-counselor-liability-powerpoint-20-638

I cannot express the amount of money, time, and resources wasted by DCF, supported solely by our taxpayers, during the investigation, assessment, and management of cases where families were reported by individuals due to some type of alternative motive.

For those of you who are unaware, Joe Social Worker would like to make it clear: DCF IS NOT A WEAPON.

Please do not call the Department if you are mad at your ex-husband/wife, have issues with your loud neighbor, or would like to evoke hurt onto a former friend.

On top of the fact that that is a completely wasteful, despicable, and unethical thing to do, one thing needs to remain clear: ONLY THE KIDS WILL SUFFER. Your petty vengeances can be sought elsewhere, where your fellow taxpayers are not footing the bill.

9. A resurge in attention to child welfare, and the subsequent influx of reports of child abuse/neglect to DCF, result in an overall safer community for our children.

TRUE AND FALSE.

Unfortunately again, when a child welfare related tragedy occurs in a community, cases of the last 2 years such as the case of Jeremiah Oliver, Alize Wipple, and Bailey Irish of Fitchburg, MA, the Blackstone Valley “House of Horrors”, and the Hardwick boy whose father’s torture resulted in his starvation and subsequent coma, become high-profile in the media and spark public outrage.  This is the typical and intended response of calling attention to injustice and Joe Social Workers throughout Massachusetts are somewhat thankful for the public outcry of remorse, disgust, and allegiance to reforming child welfare practice as to avoid injustice.

Alize-Whipple_amber

There is, however, a downside. Increased media attention allows uneducated individuals to foster a sense of hate for the DCF, as we were supposed to protect these kids. As Joe Social Worker said in our initial open letter: trust me, we are trying.

The less recognized downside of increased public attention is the resulting, inevitably (but very much appreciated) significant and debilitating increase in reports of child abuse and neglect by the citizens of our community who are on high alert for signs of suffering children.

As I said, Joe Social Workers everywhere are promoting and encouraging our communities to report their concerns for children’s wellbeing.

But please, understand the impact that increased reporting and attention has on DCF.

As Turtle Boy’s most recent article states, DCF’s already sky-high caseloads are reaching even higher leaks, for the following reasons:

I. Public attention leads to more reports coming in. The community is on high alert. We SUPPORT this. But what follows is…

II. DCF “intake” or “screening” units are being instructed by their superiors (trailing from the worker’s supervisors, all the way up to Commissioner Spears) to screen in more reports than usual as to avoid failing to take seriously any claim, no matter how invalid or ridiculous.

III. DCF investigators of child abuse/neglect reports are thus receiving more cases to investigate within their limited time period and their ever-increasing caseloads. Some are unable to accurately investigate reports within their time period. Others are able to, but due to their own instruction from superiors (as was explained in #2) they are less likely to close a case after an investigation, and more likely to open a case for ongoing services.

IV. Ongoing social workers who receive the investigated cases have more cases than ever to assess and safety plan with. Often, with a lack of time and ability to devote precious case management hours to the accurate magement of families, these cases remain open for much longer than they typically would. This is being forced upon ongoing units from superiors (see 3 & 2).  This also often leads to more cases where children end up being removed from their parents and placed into foster care, as is also being promoted by superiors, to avoid tragedy prior to it’s strike, often despite probable cause or evidence or safety planning to prevent the children’s removal as standard, non-reactive case management calls for.

V. Foster homes are fuller than ever. Foster children are often moved from Placement to placement as a result of each foster home being overwhelmed. More foster homes are resigning in recent months than in the last 6 years.

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VI. Ongoing social workers and units are being forced by their superiors to extend the typical amount of time a child would be in foster care. After 9 months in foster care, a child’s goal is likely to change to adoption, as opposed to reunification with their biological families. As a result, more foster children are currently “on the adoption track” than ever before. Adoption trials are currently being scheduled into 2018, leaving foster children “floating” in foster care for 2/3+ years.

VII. Adoption social worker’s caseloads are at an all time high, thus preventing an adoption worker’s ability to find/study/place an appropriate pre-adoptive home for the children in their caseload, who end up circulating through the depleting foster care system, and often (especially in regards to teenage foster children) in treatment programs or group homes (aka therapeutic orphanages).

VIII. More kids end up without permanency and thus develop into broken people.

So, is that cycle did not break your heart enough. The final myth Joe Social Worker would like to dispel is that of the “Safe Social Worker.”

10. Social workers are not at risk while at work.

SO FUCKING FALSE.

DCF workers are not police officers. We are legally not permitted to carry any type of defense weapon on the job, and are not allowed to use force to defend our safety against attackers. Any DCF worker who has been on the job long enough can tell you tales of being stalked back to ther homes, in supermarkets, or on Facebook, etc. by a retaliatory client. Many DCF workers need to pull their children from public schooling for fear of local clients subjecting their own children to threats or harm.

Beyond that, DCF workers go into homes that are dirty, gang or criminally involved, that house mentally ill clients or clients who abuse substances, alone, with no backup or police support.

I cannot truthfully count the number of times I have double-checked that my car was locked or my tires were not slashed during home visits, let alone the number of homes I have entered with various pest infestations.

But the danger for DCF workers has recently evolved to a higher level of danger than what a DCF worker can be exposed to in the field.

Lara Sobel, a dedicated child protection social worker of Vermont, who decorated over 14 years of service with what a coworker described as a radiating “professional delicateness”, was shot and killed while leaving her DCF office on Friday afternoon.

On August 7th, 2014, Lara’s shooter waited for her to exit her DCF office shortly after 5 pm. Her shooter, an angry and obviously mentally disturbed parent of the children Lara has removed from the shooter’s custody shortly before her death, waited for her to leave the DCF office before unloading a fatal round of bullets from her high caliber rifle into Lara’s body.

Lara Sobel leaves behind 2 children and a husband.

Lara-Sobel-and-family-cropped

Please stop the violence. The violence against children, against one another, against your spouse. Ask for help when you’re a victim. Ask for help if you no longer want to be a perpetrator.

Stop the assumptions of what it is like to work in child welfare. Stop believing the notions that all of our families are inherently bad, all of our children are doomed.

Please stop believing that you are better off holding your tongue when you see something worth reporting, when you see something unjust.

Please stop believing that you are not cut out to be a foster parent, or a social worker, because it is too hard, too much pressure, too heartbreaking, or too dangerous.

This field needs more people like you.

For Lara,

Joe Social Worker

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