Social Workers: A Day in Their Shoes

Those of you who have been following my blogs know that I am no fan of the child protection / foster care / adopt system in Texas. That is a common feeling with most of the people who have shared their stories from other states. I have said on occasion that almost any way of doing things would be an improvement over what we experienced in going through the foster / adopt process with our five boys.

I have to admit that I have encountered many very competent hard working people with the state and I have not intended to impugn them in any way. The lady who was our state social worker for our second adoption was very competent and really had a heart for hurting children. Unfortunately, she saw the light after a few years and went to law school.

Our first state social worker was very incompetent and did not care enough about the situation to do anything to improve. To make matters worse, her supervisor was not willing to step in and make her do her job. If you talked to the supervisor for very long, you would see that she was suffering from burn out and just trying to make it to pension eligibility. The whole thing made me wonder how hard it would be to get fired by the agency.

Having said all of that, I must admit that the average social worker for a state agency has a job that I would not want to do for any amount of money. They have huge work loads that often force them to rush through work that is very important to do correctly. Sometimes, the consequences of a mistake are very harsh.

Let me illustrate my point. A social worker inspects a home and finds it lacking, but not seriously enough to warrant removing the children. Sometimes that example happens in real life and a tragedy happens in the home soon after the inspection. Then there is a lot of bad publicity for the agency and the inspector.

The people working with the state then become acutely aware of the bad publicity and start taking children out of every home that seems like it might be bad. Some of those removals will be unjustified and, to make matters worse, the children have a chance of being put in foster care that is worse than the conditions of their home. It is a vicious cycle.

State investigators are not infallible, none of us are. The problem is that the decisions that they may make sometimes have life and death implications. It is no wonder that many good, conscientious people who choose this line of work wind up hardened to the injustice that they see, burned out, and discouraged. Add to that the fact that they have to go, on an almost daily basis, to places that can be extremely dangerous.

To summarize, it is a dangerous, low-paying job with a heavy workload and the consequences of making a mistake can be deadly. Maybe I need to go easier on these people.