Bad CWS Stories

Media manipulation, CWS, and the public

The story starts out by saying:

"At least four Sacramento children were critically injured and two have died of suspected abuse or neglect in the first four months of this year as budget cuts batter local social serivces programs, The Bee has learned."

How Horrible!

"Collectively, the cases worry child advocates, who fear that deep cuts and layoffs at Sacramento County's Child Protective Services – with more to come – may be endangering the county's most vulnerable children."

How Terrible!

In just a few lines we’ve been given the image of dead and beaten children, and the fear the "deep cuts" are endangering the county’s most vulnerable children.

What’s really happening, though?

The article quoted is from the Sacramento Bee, and it’s linked below. It uses emotional terms and images to make a connection in our minds between money for "helping professionals" and child safety. Is it a realistic connection?

For starters, the population of Sacramento County is 1.4 million people, with more than a quarter of those, or about 364,000 people, under the age of 18. Four were critically injured and two have died of suspected abuse or neglect? We don’t want to pretend that a child death is not significant, but we want to be realistic. Six kids out of 364,000? Sacramento county is a very safe place for children. Far more children die of polluted water every day in some cities of the world. Further, two died of "suspected abuse or neglect?" It is later revealed that of the two deaths, the parents of a 3 year old boy have been charged with physical abuse; however the death of a 5 month old girl resulted in no charges. Essentially, one child is dead of abuse or neglect, out of three hundred and sixty-four thousand kids.

What is at the center of this story of tragedy? Budget cuts.

A clear assumption is made for us: only an army of "child advocates" keep these children safe, and they won’t work for free. Less money means more dead kids. It’s an equation the writer and the "child advocates" would like you to keep in mind, at the cost of your own critical thinking.

We’ll point out that "the county’s least vulnerable children" have wealthy parents, so it is most likely that the most vulnerable children will bear the brunt of whatever misery there is. They always do. The statement is nearly meaningless, except that it creates an emotional picture for us of children huddled against some horror only a paid government employee can protect them from.

"For children, the stakes are high."

Maybe, but they’re much higher for the social workers and others who "help children" including cops?

The shortages might actually be good for families. The Bee article tells us:
"The cuts also have resurrected a long-standing debate in Sacramento County over whether the child protection agency should – or can afford to – emphasize child safety over ‘family preservation.’"

Family preservation is where the kids stays at home, and the family stays more or less intact. The problem is, Sacramento county doesn’t have the choice. The complicated money trail of Title IVB money from the Feds will certainly help determine what the county actually does. The Feds pay roughly half the costs of operation, with the state and county picking up the difference.

The feds became concerned a decade ago when the budget for foster kids started to rival the cost of a B-2 bomber. (A B-2 costs about $2.1 billion.) Congress passed a number of acts to force states to 1. Do something about kids with allegations the first time through and don’t let them come back; and 2. Get them into guardianships and adoptions so they wouldn’t drain the system.

Foster care dollars continue to top $1.5 billion a year in the U.S. Some children are on state foster care, which means the state and the county support the full cost. State foster care is not popular, and local agencies work hard to qualify a removed child for Title IVE federal foster care dollars.

In addition to removing fewer children, there have been fewer investigations. The article says, "Last July, the county cut 283 CPS positions. At least 40 more are proposed for elimination this summer. In all, that will mean at least 140 fewer social workers. To cope with reductions, CPS hotline workers have been trained to weed out calls that don't meet the strict definition of abuse or neglect."

We can see that the reduced funding has forced the agency to obey the law. In order to protect the civil rights of the parents and children involved, CWS is always supposed to "weed out calls that don’t meet the strict definition of abuse or neglect." In truth, the state lacks the authority to annoy or oppress families when there is not an allegation of abuse or neglect that meets the requirement of law. This is a nice example of bureaucrats believing their own mythology and taking the law into their own hands, to the detriment of families.

Yet, the Bee article states: "Together, the changes create a grim reality for troubled families. How many will be bypassed who should be under scrutiny? How many children will have their cases prematurely closed – if opened at all?

‘Children are going to die," said Robert Wilson, executive director of the nonprofit Sacramento Child Advocates, whose attorneys represent children in dependency court.’

We do know that children will die. It is sad but true that people die, and around the world most of them are young or old. We needn’t treat this fact as if it were heresy, it is true everywhere throughout the world, and all through the animal kingdom.

However, we have no reason to believe that more children will die now than would have died if all the "helpers" were fat and well paid. Particularly when there is every reason to believe that CWS across the state is helping too much.

The Bee article discusses a "receiving home" which is in danger of closing. Such places are large facilities which "shelter" children and provide services. Shelter care is a specific kind of foster care, one which takes children for a short period of time, on short notice. Typically in smaller communities certain foster care providers will, for monetary consideration, keep "shelter" beds open. In the case of Sacramento, this snug shelter has 98 beds. The Children's Receiving Home of Sacramento is a non-profit started in 1944 which serves Sacramento and several surrounding counties. It provides a variety of services and if the institution closed children certainly would suffer. Shelter care is necessary in some cases. Good example: mom and dad leave the kids with a baby sitter and something happens. The baby sitter would turn the kids over to CWS who would probably shelter care the kids until a suitable relative or other provider could be found to care for the children. Typically, shelter placements last no more than 30 days. From there, the children could be temporarily placed with relatives, or sent to foster care. However, pulling kids from families to keep the institution open is hardly good economics for the state. It’s good economics for the shelter, though.

The Bee tells us the receiving home is having a hard time, so children will die: "The letter, which Ballard co-signed, cites ‘CPS' current policy of keeping as many children as possible out of foster care … regardless of the dangers involved. As a result, we are admitting less than half the number of children as a year ago – another severe drop in revenue that directly affects our ability to function.’ The company is down about $200,000 a month in revenues, according to the Bee article.

The Bee goes on to say: "While concerned about safety, Wilson and others commend the CPS director for embarking on a rigorous reorganization plan that she promises will put ‘children and families at the center of everything we do.’ At the same time, Coulthard (CPS Director Laura Coulthard) has vowed to make the operation more efficient by streamlining procedures and emphasizing accountability."

This would sound great, except that those are the very words used by all CWS agencies and even by the state, for any change made. No one says "we’re going to stop spending so much on salaries and start giving more money to poor families." Instead, they emphasize accountability (which costs a great deal of money to actually accomplish) and the focus on families.

There is no doubt the comatose economy is hurting families and children. There is no doubt that joblessness increases behaviors like alcohol use, spousal abuse and child abuse. It won’t be a startling revelation that people who feel hopeless about their lives, and who have little value to society and are reminded of this, will come to value their offspring as they value themselves. The intractability of the problem of child abuse and neglect stem from two factors: first, when adults are poorly valued, their children will be poorly valued. In the Sacramento system, poor people and particularly poor Blacks are over-represented. This is true everywhere.

Second, child abuse will never decrease because the "threshold" of abuse is constantly lowered. Given their task of making the child "safe," social workers and other "helping" professionals find endlessly more reasons to interfere with the family. The level of what is considered abuse has dropped to the point where nearly every family, or at least every poor family, would qualify for "help".

The Bee story isn’t really about kids, and not about families. It’s about people who’ve found a niche for themselves in the "helping" professions, and how they want to keep their graduated pay scale and retirement.

Further, the story failed even at the task of highlighting the depth of the hardship on "helpers". The fact is, much of the work of controlling families is done by people who are only one step above poverty themselves. Visitation supervisors, home-helpers, even eligibility workers and behavioral trainers barely make a living wage. It seems unlikely a strapped department would lay off all the social worker 4s and keep all the housekeepers.

But, the big failing with this article is that it perpetuates the belief that government should run our families.

The Bee article is HERE:

The Receiving home is HERE /

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