Reforming Child Welfare

March is Social Workers Month

super_social_worker_LOGO_200x200.jpgWho is the SUPER SOCIAL WORKER in your office?

March is National Social Workers Month. Social Workers in SEIU 721 will recognize and celebrate our contributions throughout Southern California.

Social Workers Win Increased Resources for Emergency Response

Department Head Listens to Recommendations from the Line, Adds Staff and Overtime to Aid 'Over 30s'

Over the last couple of weeks a team of social workers and SEIU 721 staff met with children's deputies in all five Board of Supervisors offices and with top DCFS management about our recommendations to improve child welfare in Los Angeles County.

Following those meetings, a group of management including Director Trish Ploehn met via phone conference Feb. 10. Social workers encouraged DCFS management to allocate the proper resources to close cases over 30 and best ensure children are safe and their cases are up to date.

Ploehn agreed to:

  • Authorize overtime up to 94 hours per social worker per month for all CSWs in ER.
  • Allow each office to create a team devoted to working on over 30 cases and authorized overtime for members of this team. The supervising social worker on this team will also qualify for overtime.
  • Open offices on Saturdays.


Social workers discussed the need to focus attention on emergency response in meetings with children's deputies for the county supervisors. They also discussed social worker recommendations:

  • Allocate necessary resources to ER. Social workers talked about the more than 16,000 children in LA County in an over 30 status and the need to properly address the situation.
  • Access to forensic medical attention. All five Board offices shared that they are working with DHS, DMH and DCFS to get hubs up and running throughout the county.
  • Coaching and mentoring. Social workers discussed the need to revise the ICU core academy, the 9-week training academy for all CSWs, so that it's more practical. This would include reinstituting training units that are full supported with reduced caseloads and lead CSWs.
  • Basic tools. Social workers raised concerns about the lack of resources including access to working copy and fax machines and cell phones for supervising children's social workers.

    In response, Martha Molina, children's deputy for Supervisor Gloria Molina said:  "Every social worker should have a laptop and every supervising social worker should have a cell phone."

Top Officials Question LA Times on Child Welfare

Social workers in Los Angeles County are speaking out to correct the record after a misleading article was published in the Los Angeles Times.

Today Judge Michael Nash, who presides over the Los Angeles County Juvenile Court, joined the chorus with an opinion piece entitled "Family over foster care is still a priority in L.A. County."

Social workers have submitted letters to the editor to the LA Times stating particularly that keeping families together is a primary goal of social work. (Read the letters below.)

Blanca Gomez "Fundamentally our work depends on not only keeping children safe and out of harm's way, but helping create an environment where children can thrive. Whenever possible we reunite families because that is the best place for children to succeed," said Blanca Gomez, a children's social worker.

The article, which was later corrected by the newspaper, implied that the County is ending its emphasis on family reunification. In a follow-up article Department of Children and Family Services Director Trish Ploehn said "the department continues to remain steadfast in its commitment to reducing the number of children in foster care and to increasing the number of family reunifications." You can read the entire article here.

The original article, "County to end emphasis on family over foster care," is now entitled "L.A. County shifts approach to children in foster care."

Social Workers Weigh In:

Dear Editor:

Your article "County to end emphasis on family over foster care" (Feb. 5) implies a shift that just hasn't happened. Good social work is dependent on working with families and giving them the resources they need to get on track and  create a stable home life. As long as I am a social worker in Los Angeles County this will remain my goal.

Walter R. White, MSW
Children's Social Worker, LA County DCFS


Dear Editor:

Social work is not easy. Fundamentally our work depends on not only keeping children safe and out of harm's way, but helping create an environment where children can thrive. Whenever possible we reunite families because that is the best place for children to succeed.

Your article "County to end emphasis on family over foster care" (Feb. 5) implies a shift that just hasn't happened. Good social work is dependent on working with families and giving them the resources they need to get on track and  create a stable home life. As long as I am a social worker in Los Angeles County this will remain my goal.


Blanca Gomez, MSW
Children's Social Worker, LA County DCFS

Social Workers Take Reform Recommendations to the Top

Team Discusses Recommendations to Improve Child Welfare in LA with Directors


Social workers and SEIU staff met with DCFS Director Trish Ploehn Jan. 20 to discuss recommendations to improve child welfare, working conditions and department operations.

The team presented our report: Reforming the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services: Recommendations from Los Angeles County social workers" directly to Ploehn and her executive team.

The recommendations are the product of hundreds of hours of work and dozens of interviews by a committee of social workers comprised of Children's Social Workers and Supervising Children's Social workers representing a variety of specialties and units.

The recommendations outline a vision for DCFS where social workers have:

  • The resources we need to do quality social work like access to computers, phones, fax machines and copy machines.
  • Improved mentoring and coaching including improvements to the training academy.
  • Enhances departmental policies including revising burdensome policies.
  • Improved coordination between LA County departments so that workers have access to the most relevant and up to date information.
  • Increased access to medical hubs, including increasing the number of 24-hour medical hubs from one to three.


1-21-10 Meeting with Ploehn

"DCFS is under pressure to change and it's time they listen to workers on the line. Our recommendations provide a framework that can truly improve the experience for social workers and the families we serve."

 Lorraine Cavuoti SCSW Torrance

"This isn't rocket science, we know what it takes to move forward, but the department doesn't change unless it has to. We are constantly reminding them and the Board of Supervisors that we can work together and achieve positive outcomes."

Mike Ross, SCSW
El Monte DCFS


Next Steps:

1. DCFS management reported that they are already considering several changes that overlap with social workers' recommendations. We will respond to their commentary on our recommendations.

2. We are also starting another round of meetings with the child welfare deputies of the Board of Supervisors to talk to them about our vision next week. Then we will schedule a follow up meeting with top DCFS.

Important Information About Your Union Dues

If you are a former member of SEIU Local 535, your union dues have been lowered.

Social Workers Win Key Assurances on ER Improvements

A team of social workers has been meeting with DCFS management to improve policies and training related to emergency response work with the goal of improving results for workers, children and families.

LA County Social Workers Sound Off for Solutions


Above: Social workers from the South County office display their "super social worker" T-shirts.

Social workers gathered Saturday, Oct. 17, for a forum on reforming the child welfare system.

Participants heard firsthand about intensive efforts underway to work with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the public, community groups and experts to ensure social workers are heard and our recommendations for system reform are embraced.

First Social Worker Forum Features Sharp Focus and Fun

Voices from "Reforming the Child Welfare System...From the Ground Up" on Saturday, Oct. 17:

"Super Social Worker" T-shirt for Forum Participants

super_social_worker_LOGO_200x200.jpgThis just workers attending the forum Reforming Child Welfare...From the Ground Up will receive a special limited edition t-shirt specially designed for Oct. 17.

Updated: Keynote Speaker Added to Social Worker Forum

We are pleased to announce that Susan B. Edelstein will serve as our keynote speaker at the Oct. 17 social worker forum, "Reforming Child Welfare...From the Ground Up."

Join the Conversation: Social Worker Forum

Child safety systems are under scrutiny by the community, media and elected officials - each one often criticizing not only the child welfare system but the workers who provide frontline services to keep children safe. 

LA County social workers created a forum to learn and exchange ideas in order to start to articulate our ideas to improve the child welfare system. 

Reforming Child Welfare...From the Ground Up

Date: Saturday, October 17, 2009
Time: 9:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Location: SEIU 721, 500 S. Virgil St., Los Angeles, CA 90020

RSVP online here.

*Featuring expert speakers and discussion sessions. Lunch and live entertainment to conclude the forum.

Social workers can participate in discussions centered on: 

  • Improving social worker training and support
  • State and local child welfare policy
  • Improving the image of social workers in the media
  • Forming alliances with community advocates 

Social Workers Weigh in on Case Review, Computerization

Lorraine Cavuoti, a supervising children's social worker in dependency investigations, addressed the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday, Sept. 29 in response to Board motions that will affect case review in the Department of Children and Family Services.

Taking System Reform Into Our Own Hands

Help social workers by filling out the survey.

Social workers representing all major areas - DI, FMNR, Adoptions, ISW and ER - have been working steadily to articulate ways to improve the Los Angeles County child welfare system from our perspective on the line. The workgroup, meeting after hours and on the weekends, has identified several areas that should be enhanced in order to better serve children, families and social workers in DCFS. One area is training - from the Academy and training units to ongoing support and professional supervision. Other areas include forensic and medical availability, skills building - particularly documenting and interviewing, and encouraging back-end placements before working in ER.

Our goal is to present a comprehensive plan to department management and the five LA County Supervisors for real change - for the better - in the way we do social work in LA.

Please take a moment to fill our survey.

Collectively we've spent about 100 years on the line, but we want to hear personal stories from all 17 DCFS offices.

Your input is vital.

David Green, Adoptions and SEIU 721 Executive Board member
Tony Bravo, FMNR and SEIU 721 Executive Board member
Lorraine Cavuoti, DI
Joan Marks, ER
Rachel Ruiz, ER
Marissa Ruiz, ISW

Experiencing Social Work Firsthand in Chatsworth

Getting a Teenager on Track After Multiple Placements

In the next installment of our social worker walk-aday in our shoes program, two deputies from Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's office accompanied two workers from the Chatsworth office on ride-alongs. As usual, the events were dramatic.

Porn Industry Intersects with a Child's Life

Accompanied by two deputies from LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky's office, Anne Thomas, ER social worker for 14 years, responded to alleged sexual abuse of four-year-old girl by her father.