Over 300 SEIU 721 members rally for child safety to demand policy reform for social workers
Educators, child advocates and community leaders joined hundreds of social workers on May 9 to demand reform at LA County Department of Children and Family Services. The social workers were supported by SEIU 721 members from throughout the region, including Executive Board members chanting "protect our children - less paperwork, more social work," in front of the County Hall of Administration.
LA County children's social workers spoke about how caseloads and unmanageable volumes of paperwork -- caused in large part by an explosion of new departmental policies and bureaucratic procedures -- are hindering their ability to protect children placed in protective care.
"LA County social workers are the last line of defense for LA's most vulnerable children," said LA Unified School District Board President Mónica García. "Social workers must be able to do social work to protect our children, we need to reduce bureaucracy and reduce their caseloads." García added her name to a growing list of community advocates calling for common sense reform at DCFS.
The rally culminated with the child advocates marching on the Supervisors' offices to deliver their demands.
1. CUT THE RED TAPE. Launch a fast-track review of the entire DCFS policy and procedures guide with a goal of reducing red tape and maximizing time spent on direct service to children and families.
2. CUT POLICYMAKERS ON THE FRONTLINES. Direct all members of the DCFS policy-making staff to perform frontline casework one day per month to review working conditions firsthand.
3. SEE FOR YOURSELF. Organize site visits and ride-alongs so County Supervisors can understand the challenges facing LA County's children's social workers and the real world impact of the laws and regulations passed at the county level.
"We need to stand up for LA County's children by ensuring that social workers have the resources they need for them and their families," said Saira Soto, Program Director at Children's Defense Fund in California. "Children can't be kept safe when social workers are withering under unsafe caseloads."
Workers told management enough is enough. Social workers have to navigate a thicket of more than "400 procedural guides," "FYIs," "management directives" and other rules for every client. Many LA County social workers complain that merely reading these complex rules and satisfying the resulting paperwork is itself a full-time job.
"LA County social workers are buried with paperwork," said Blanca Gomez, a children's social worker at the Corporate/Belvedere office. This is a child safety issue when social workers voice, "It's beyond human capability to read and comply with all of this bureaucracy and properly service a caseload at the same time -- something has got to give. In the name of child safety we are determined to bring much needed change and not put children at risk. We need less paperwork, more social work!"