Every year in Los Angeles County thousands of children are left in a lurch, waiting to be placed with a loving family. Sometimes social workers get 20, 30, or 40 rejections before they can place a child. We are in a placement crisis. The SEIU 721 Placement Forum on March 25th brought social workers together from across Southern California to tackle this immense problem.
200 social workers heard from a distinguished panel of social workers, administrators and foster parents as they worked together to create strategies to find placement for children in L.A. County. It was truly a diverse group with social workers, judges, foster parents, college students, authors, and professors.
“I’ve been on both sides of the DCFS system,” said Sharonda Wade, SCSW. Sharonda went on to explain how at one point at age 19 she took on the responsibility of raising her 15-year-old sister to keep their family together.
Social workers rely on foster parents to open up their hearts and their homes to children. In some extraordinary cases foster parents like Mohammed Bzeek open up their homes to the most medically complex children and sometimes care for them until the end of their young lives. We salute Mr. Bzeek and he was a Special Honoree at the social worker day event. A very humble man, Mr. Bzeek has fostered dozens of children over the past 20 years.
Social workers do have community allies though to help with this crisis. Special guest Areva D. Martin, attorney and President of the Special Needs Network, was the keynote speaker at the forum. “Thank you social workers,” Areva told the crowd. “I know this work is hard. We stand with you. We appreciate your working with kids who have had traumas, families who have had traumas.”
The forum included a panel of foster parents, social workers and administrators. This led to an informative Q & A session where social workers and social work students posed some compelling questions about the best way to address the needs of the children, foster parents and of social workers overburdened by caseloads.
There were also breakout sessions where social workers focused in on several key topics and came up with multifaceted solutions and approaches to put a dent in the placement crisis. Social workers were then recognized for their hard work over the year and they enjoyed an afternoon of special awards, music and souvenirs.