With fears growing about the change in priorities from the proposed White House budget, Peace4Kids Board Member, Jenny Serrano, MPA (bottom left), shares a special message for the child welfare community in honor of World Social Work Day.
I work with Children’s Social Workers every day. I manage Supervising Children’s Social Workers in one of the largest child welfare agencies in the United States – Los Angeles County. I have spent my professional life, spanning twenty years in the world of child welfare, not only as an Administrator for the past seven years, but also formerly as a youth in the foster care system.
One thing I knew after six years of case management with homeless youth and young mothers – was I did NOT want to be a social worker. I chose a different path in policy and administration. I like to think my choice was because I’m a macro thinker and doer. Honestly, I think it was more guided by a personal inability and unwillingness to be that close to trauma, conflict, pain, confusion and desperation that makes up the day in the life of a social worker.
What I’ve learned as a child in foster care and adult working in child welfare is that institutions and bureaucracies do not raise children.
I often see us institutionally caring for ourselves first, which I understand but sometimes find myself in conflict with; being reactive to media pressure and judgment from elected officials; not truly understanding the magnitude of the charge we have given social workers to repair broken families.
Just yesterday a Los Angeles County judge ruled that four social workers should stand trial on child abuse and other charges in a child murdered by his mother and her boyfriend.
Other states and countries have also pursued this option. I find it interesting that I have seen thousands of what I would consider violent offenders who abuse their own children earn nothing more than the reward of no longer having to raise them. It is rare for an offending parent to be prosecuted. Caregivers are rarely if ever prosecuted. Legislative and budget officials are rarely prosecuted for under-funding and under-staffing child welfare. It makes me think that, as with most things, a reactive response that pins the blame on anyone else is society’s way of feeling better about a situation.
I have been a member of the Board of Directors at Peace4Kids for six years, a fan of the work done there, for eight years. The mantra “Community As Family” is the first thing that struck me. It drew me in. I wanted to understand what that meant.
For me, it means that children experiencing foster care belong to the entire community not the local child welfare institution.
Schools, parks, places of worship, all have a hand in building up children to become strong adults. In being there consistently for a child, smiling, laughing, setting boundaries, learning together, Peace4Kids does a tremendous and valuable service for not only the child and their caregiver, but the social worker. The message is ‘we are in this together’ and ‘you don’t have to do this alone’, ‘we value you’ and ‘we know how difficult your job is’.
So this month, remember those front-line soldiers who carry extra diapers, car seats and formula, snacks and games in their vehicles; drive all over this 4,000+ mile county; comfort adults and children alike facing one of the most painful disruptions in life – and still show up the next day to do it all over again. Social workers, you are appreciated.