SEIU 721 is proud to report incredible progress on a major issue affecting L.A. County social workers: Resource Family Approvals. It’s no secret that the RFA backlog was up to 2,500 cases. Indeed, the backlog was a huge sticking point during our last round of contract bargaining. Every single one of these backlogged cases represents a family providing foster care to a relative without the legally mandated payment that helps ensure stable care for children in need. This backlog affects children’s safety since it discourages interested relatives from becoming foster parents – making our social workers’ already challenging jobs even more difficult.
The California State Legislature passed Assembly Bill (AB) 110 earlier this year, which gave L.A. County extra funding to close this backlog by September 1, 2018. But they also required L.A. County to submit a plan by May 15, 2018 on how specifically those dollars would be spent to close the backlog. Until recently, L.A. County management was considering contracting out with a non-union Foster Family Agency to handle this work. But thanks to SEIU 721’s strong partnership with new L.A. County DCFS Director Bobby Cagle, the work will stay in-house. Cagle comes from Georgia, which is a Right to Work state. So he understands the connection between a unionized public sector workforce and the quality of services those same employees provide to their client. This includes greater familiarity with the resources available to children and families, better knowledge of the agencies that provide these services and a deeper understanding generally of what works and what doesn’t in the child welfare field.
And Cagle is a team player, too. When our union asked for DCFS managers to assist us in closing the RFA backlog, Cagle quickly sent a departmentwide “all hands on deck” message mandating that employees at all levels pitch in to get the job done. Starting on June 1, DCFS will be rolling out RFA Strike Teams to tackle this backlog once and for all, using in-house labor and a unionized workforce. When necessary, we will use union clerical workers from county departments besides DCFS to handle data entry. This success story is terrific example of the power of our union. When we stand united, we don’t just have a voice – we dramatically influence the policies and procedures affecting both our lives and the lives of the people we serve.