Is Lee Adams Right?


Is Lee Adams Right?

District 1 Supervisor Lee Adams has been increasingly vocal in his concern over the growth of social services in the county. He recently declined to allow the health department to purchase a building in Loyalton, and he raised the alarm in the most recent meeting when Director Dr. Carol Roberts asked for another position. He knows what he’s talking about; during his reign as sheriff, he declined Homeland Security money because it wasn’t in the best interest of the county, or the country.

In the interest of disclosure, the editor of this piece must acknowledge some personal facts which impart bias. I’ve worked in social services, and did very well by it. I understand the nature of social service funding and, in principle, support bringing all the federal dollars we can into the county, and spreading them out as far as they will go. I also realize our society is just about lost, having surrendered our right to complain in public to the idea of a nanny state that will take care of all of us.

Efficient Nanny Government; babies in a row.
A 20 year old photo, probably from Albania

Helper at the Stream
The federal government has money, and it uses it to accomplish tasks at the state level. No Heath Services, Human Services, or Social Services provisions at the state level are really free of the influence of the requirements of federal money. The states follow the flow of dollars from the feds like trout nosing into the stream to catch worms and flies. Where the stream goes, they go.

But, while funding explains why social services are taking the shape they are, it doesn’t alone explain why the nation has endured a several hundred percent increase in social workers, and increasing intrusion into our lives. Indeed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that social work as a field is increasing faster than most other professions, at a time when most people are losing jobs. Part of Lee Adam’s concern is that social service staff in the county, in a relatively few years, has gone from 10 people to over 40. That kind of increase is typical.

Social workers would be quick to say they don’t intrude, they provide services. That’s what gives the increasing intrusion its power: they’re helping.

 Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies, The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. —C.S. Lewis

Real Life
Let’s state up front: social workers are band-aids, they can’t change social inequity, they can’t change individual predisposition or talent, they can’t change your social history. Social workers reduce social misery like prison guards (another "social service" industry with a powerful lobby) reduce crime. The true causes of our individual misery, they can do nothing about. They can find a job for a single mom, but another single mom will lose a job, because there are only so many jobs, it’s a game of musical chairs. The social worker can’t create jobs, or ensure fair pay and treatment, or do much to change the blemished apples of our society who always remain on the shelf. The truth is, helpers, because of the philosophy of their craft and the nature of their tools, assume a kind of myopia. They are able to see only what their work allows them to see, and to believe what their training and tools tell them. The enormity of life, the complexity of fate and providence, these are lost to the helper’s view. God made a mistake to make this person quirky, He was wrong to put this child in this family. The life experiences of the poor and the crazy are not genuine, they must be corrected. The social worker, and not fate, will determine what life experiences are meaningful. Of course, they can’t change the enormity of the real world, can’t recast the Potter’s clay.

However, they can make a damn good living trying.

There is a joke among social service analysts that federal jobs programs reduce unemployment by giving jobs to social workers. The colloquial term for those in the vast army of "helpers" is "poverty pimp," because of their use of the poor to make a nice living.

To be fair, those at the bottom of the food chain, such as eligibility workers, visitation supervisors, drivers, housekeeping trainers and other minions, don’t make much. It is easily possible for an eligibility worker, visitation supervisor or other lower rung servant to qualify for services themselves.

Early social worker: Jane Addams, feminist, Peace activist,
Nobel Prize winner (1931), and under-valued American

Further, many people do benefit from social services, there is no doubt. Many balanced on the point of disease, mental illness and substance abuse who face prison or death or worse are indeed helped by social service professionals. Indeed, most of us, at some point in our lives, need help, and a social worker, counselor, or mental health worker can, working with medical providers, lead us to the help we need. The dying really and truly can be helped out of this world by a caring person, even if that person is paid. In no case do we mean to say that such services are completely unnecessary. It’s just the degree of help we question.


Ida Maud Cannon brought badly needed social services
to medicine in the early 1900s

Call it a Calling
Social workers, at least those who actually provide services, assume they’re helping. (Many, though, get the degree and a minimum amount of experience and then head into administrative positions, which pay much better.) They not only assume they’re helping, they go to hours and hours of training and seminars and continuing education, the purpose of which is to teach the helper new techniques and new requirements, but also to reaffirm them in their task, and let them play out any concerns they have so they’ll return to work reassured. They have good intentions, and the intentions are reinforced with socialization. They are there to help.

Helpers at the Trough
Government policy, and not social workers, has brought us to the pass.

Still, social work isn’t all sainthood and prosocial urges. The helping sciences have developed into a multibillion dollar industry, and once in our lives, we might never be free of them. It is the core truth that people do sometimes need help, that powers the rhetoric of the industry.

Much of the genesis of this flood of helpers can be traced to the National Association of Social Workers. Social workers have been with us for nearly a century and a half. Early social workers were women with no training, or a little medical training, who provided services to women and children. They made almost no money and often had to avoid alcoholic husbands and even the law to provide necessary services to their clients. Even into the 20th century, social workers were true revolutionaries, bringing knowledge and consciousness to people in dire need. There have been Marxist social workers, feminist social workers and even anarchist social workers who spread liberation with their physical and emotional care.

But, the profession now is far beyond revolution. Now, the profession functions mainly to control the masses, and to care for the surplus of society. Social work has become social control. It joins and works cheek by jowl with law enforcement and the justice system. Much of social worker training is law, and child welfare social work is, or should be, almost completely guided by law; CWS social workers walk a shadowy line between service provider and evidence collector, between helper and informer. Helpers in general are taught to value and preserve agency relationships with schools, law enforcement, the District Attorney’s office, and other government and not for profit helpers. California has "mandated reporter" laws which make every schoolyard monitor, every EMT, every film developer, and anyone who ever works with kids into a cop. If they have reason to suspect, they must report. These "lay cops" are very useful to the helping community. They are protected by law and absolved for whatever mischief befalls the family because of their "suspicions".

Other roles once played by family and friends are now filled by helpers. Social workers literally prepare clients and family members for the realities of illness in capitalist America. They indoctrinate family on the realities of care for the elderly, particularly the financial aspects. They council and caution the families of the incarcerated. They follow cops and firefighters into disasters. Busy busy everywhere, helping. Throughout the spectrum of human suffering social workers find a niche. They funnel the troubled toward registration, integration, socialization.

Indeed, in one generation they have almost completely supplanted family and even church in providing services. Aunts and Grandmothers once provided stability in society, but today, aunts and grandmothers are busy, part of the business world, or worse, they don’t pass the Attorney General’s list to be around children or families.

This list, part of our society’s morbid fantasies about what childhood means, lists every person who wants to work with children, or who wants to provide a home to children, even their own kin. The person is fingerprinted on an electronic pad which couples it to their legal history. The system is cataloging aunts and grandmothers who want to care for their kids, and every person who wants to volunteer for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, or wants to coach, or teach kids cabinetry. Each day thousands of new names go into the database. If there has ever been an allegation of child neglect or abuse, or, coming soon, elder abuse or neglect, the system knows. If there was ever a DUI, or domestic violence, or violent crime, the system knows, and clearance is denied.

The system was thrust on the Attorney General’s office at the insistence of a legislature over reacting to the public hysteria they created over child safety.

The Heart of the Family
Indeed, it is in the area of child welfare that our society has most lost its way. At one time, our children were ours, of our bodies and our blood; they shared our fortune and folly.

Now, our children belong to the government, and we are able to keep them only if we satisfy the government. No longer do our children share our fate. The political foes are in accord; the conservatives want to be certain they don’t lose their car stereos, and liberals want to raise the unwashed above their misery. Both are fool’s errands. As a result, having a child of your own is one of the most legally dangerous things you can do.

What you should know

What does it take for the county to take your child? Almost nothing; indeed, most citizens are horrified when they find out how easy it is for the state to take a child. Such matters are not handled in a criminal court, but in a "civil" court. As a result, your rights are fewer and the standards of proof far less. A report from a bus driver, a postal worker, an angry ex-spouse, a rebellious teen, all suffice; social workers tend to believe out of family sources more than the parent or even the child. What kind of evidence is needed? Almost no evidence. Small bruises, prolonged illness, vague sexual allegations, these are reasons to remove a child. A red mark is considered an injury; a pat on the butt, sexual abuse. Things that commonly happen in normal family life are sufficient. Once removed, nothing about the family or the physical bodies of the persons involved is private. Loving your child isn’t enough, even being innocent isn’t enough. Your child may be imprisoned with strangers who know nothing of your family, your culture, or your God. If your child is taken, mortgage your assets, hire the best attorney you can (never rely on public defenders) and when possible, sue the county afterwards (rare, but possible). In your battle with CWS expect to lose your job because of the demands made on your time. You’ll have no bank account and no home, but you’ll have your children.




Here, a lay guide to the system;

What you should know.

This is largely due to the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA, Public Law 105-89) of 1997. Signed into law by Bill Clinton, it was seen to supplement a similar law of 1980, but it essentially turned the focus from sending the child home to sending the child to adoption. It changed the way the family, and childhood, is viewed.

Through most of human history you were an adult at 12 and raising a family by 14. Throughout much of the world today children are expected to serve as adults by age 14 or so. In the West, and in the United States, we desperately need to keep young adults out of the dwindling employment market, so they stay "children" until 18. Our system removes children to put them into better homes, homes where they will learn to be prompt, to be clean, to speak well to their betters; in short, people have been hired by the state to raise these children to be participants in the machinery of commerce. Many rebel and run away from foster care; they are destined for the probation system. Children on probation are given many of the same services as children in foster care.







The real world: child soldiers,. Copyright Ó CICR/PEREZ, François





In the real world, throughout nearly all human history but the last hundred and fifty years, children have been variously considered chattel, servants, or small adults or generally expendable. Real cultures experience death frequently; even agrarian societies suffer war and famine. In many tribal societies, children and old people starve first, because those between can create new children. When hard times come, the clan is reduced to those who can feed themselves and reproduce.

Childhood in the real world.  From HERE  

When a society has a sufficient life, and death is not at hand, then time expands, and the old are valued for their wisdom, and the young are valued for the future they represent. When a society has an abundance, the old and young become commodities for the services they need. In a society where adults are expected, almost required, to work out of the home, the young and old become a burden. Expectations of care are inflated, and industries arise to meet those new expectations.

When a society views the world that way, family is no longer good enough to care for the old and the young, it needs to be turned over to experts. And anyway, in a capitalist society, the strong and fertile are needed to work the gears, to produce and consume, and they are too valuable to expend on caring for the young and old.

Indeed, the young, and increasingly the old, have become the property of the helping professions. Families are discouraged from keeping the very old to die at home. Instead, they are stockpiled in pleasant surroundings and kept clean until they can die. Likewise, children have increasingly become the business of professionals to the point where new parents aren’t allowed to escape the hospital without at least a brush with the system.

What social workers do.
While this article is about government over-involvement in private life, and social workers and other professional helpers are the foot-soldiers of this campaign, the honest need for social work is great, and the value of social workers has to be considered outside this narrative. Social workers help people get a good start in life, help people with special developmental issues, help people pull themselves and their families together after heartbreak or tragedy, and even help heal communities. They help people deal with loss, with chronic disease, and with the end of life. This narrative is not intended to detract from the work and intention of social workers, but to address the flaws in law and public policy that turn those who intend to help into the means of social control.
To see a little of the good social workers do, see HERE The NASW still works for social justice, it’s just been regularized. (Link) 

 Unequal Distribution

In particular, the poor and working class come to know the system. What is wonderful about the system is that you can enter anywhere, and end up everywhere. You enter at child welfare because your kid wasn’t picked up after school and you end up getting your pee tested, or your home visited by a helper. Get drunk and hit your spouse: you each get a social worker, and perhaps court ordered anger management, and maybe even a full time, life-long diagnosis.

It’s for your own good.

Once you are part of the system, new language rules apply to you. You can’t just be a little nuts, you have to have a diagnosis. The diagnosis has a code, it has treatments assigned using "best practices" and "evidence based practice". In child welfare, and increasingly in other diagnostic situations, computer programs help the helper; the "Structured Decision Making" system, which dramatically reduces social worker discretion in dealing with families, calls itself "your partner" in child welfare. Similar trends are emerging in mental health care, and even medical care, as the system struggles to streamline itself to take care of a rapidly growing client base.

Multiple Factors
The client base is growing, partly, because our nation is de-compensating. Our economic system is winding down as raw materials including energy become more expensive. Our standard of living has been decreasing since the 70s but we can’t tell because our lives are filled with cheaper and more shiny gewgaws, like cell phones and plastic crap from the "Yen store". Even so, we’re feeling the strain. The economic depression will gradually end, like a tide slowly returning, but it won’t come in as far as it used to. Like the depleted environmental recourses, our ability to turn the raw materials of energy and human power into plenty is depleting. The globe is a closed system, there is a finite amount of everything, and as China drinks, the pond shrinks. America is rich and mighty in its imagination, but like the reality of famine in agrarian societies, the reality of depletion in our society is closing in. We have more needy, and we create more permanent underclass through our prisons. Human need and misery increase, and more helpers are needed to keep the rabble under control. No wonder the Bureau of Labor Statistics recommends you become a social worker.

But, that’s only one reason the client base is growing.

The real reason is that we have given the language of family and health to these professionals. They generate "research" which nearly always indicates more human want, and more helper need. The definitions that surrounds our human condition, like "health," "proper care," "abuse," and "family" are now owned by the helpers. Using the technology at their disposal, they identify and define us. They regularize us. We are the raw materials of their industry.

The Guild
The NASW has very skillfully pushed for "professionalism", a term for the extended period of education and experience which essentially provide a gatekeeper function, keeping the numbers of social workers, and the complexity of degrees needed to perform certain tasks, in balance so wages remain high. In this, the organization functions much like a guild, which kept poorly paid apprentices busy until their masters were too old to work and created a slot for advancement.

The NASW isn’t waiting for slots, the group is expanding by expanding the areas it oversees and by weaving itself into government the way military industries weave themselves into the Pentagon.

Currently they have been so successful, that they literally control the flow of money through their helping society. To get the funds needed, you have to have appropriate staff, and by staff we mean people with helping degrees. You have to have a supervising clinician to hire these social workers and substance abuse counselors, to get the funding for these computers which we’ll put in the building provided for them. All these resources flow through the signatures of highly trained helper administrators.This editor has been one of those, on a low level. Life was good. Among my tasks was the "integrated case plan". I helped craft the language and forms which would allow information to pass between the various helper agencies of social services, mental health, and child welfare. Like a good bureaucrat, I created pathways for information and money to flow. Thanks to my efforts, helping professionals are free to gossip and prognosticate to further help the client.

My efforts also helped refine the use of language. The law has thresholds for funding. Those thresholds are met with language in computer fields. If the federal funding for one type of service for a client runs out, we have to find new things to say about the person to keep the flow of money going. We do this for them, because society has no place for them, they are sick or old or stupid or meth addicted. And we do this for ourselves so we remain employed and avoid finding ourselves on the wrong side of the desk, the wrong end of the form, the wrong edge of helping.

Partners and Co-conspirators
Like the military-industrial complex, the social service-industrial complex needs a dance partner: government. This requires interaction with two nefarious groups: the Republicans and the Democrats. The natural urge of conservatives to control the behavior of others, coupled with the instinct of liberals to tidy up their inferiors has teamed up with the social work lobby to create a terrible web of laws. While reactionaries on the right worry about creeping socialism, their real fear should be from creeping social technocrats. 





When I fed the poor they said I was a saint; when I asked why they were poor, they said I was a communist.
Dom Helder Camara, Archbishop of Recife, Brazil

There is a feedback loop where politicians whip the populace into a frenzy, which causes the plebeians to cry for more government, more services, more helpers. The NASW attends the legislature, after all, they’re the experts, right? They bring numbers, they bring charts. The numbers and charts say we need more helpers, to get involved sooner, younger, earlier. How can good politicians let people suffer? They can’t. The media picks up the charts and numbers as news, and people get stirred up and demand more laws, more prison guards, more helpers. No one notices that the thresholds of helper intrusion have sunk again, and they can now intrude not with an act or a crime, but with the possibility of an act or crime. More money for helpers, more money for technology to register, track, and serve.

As always, the wealthy escape all of this. They have their own experts, and they pay them well to use language to keep them out of the system. The wealthy do occasionally find themselves in the system, but their time there is short, and the likelihood of it happening is small. The huge majority of clients are poor and working class, with the truly middle class (those making $150,000 a year and more) and the wealthy insulated from such troubles.Is Lee Right?

Lee Adams’s instinct that government is too big is right, but there is little we can do about it. Like women in Nazi concentration camps who had sex for potatoes to stay alive, we have no choice but to sleep with our occupier. We might deny federal funds, but we can’t refuse state intervention. The local courts have been taken over by the state, though we still serve their needs. If we don’t take the bribes and keep our population under control, the state will step in even further in our county and take over social services. Lee is right, the money will enslave us, but he’s wrong in thinking we have a choice.

Lee can’t stop the trend, and neither can Carol Roberts. At best, if we’re lucky, our county helpers will take the money, but not help too much. We need to hire the best people we can, train them well, and them make them understand our local culture. The helpers and their computer programs don’t actually know the course of our lives, don’t really have a direct line to the will of God, and can’t promise they will help anybody in particular. In the grand scheme, they have only their own reflexive rhetoric and "science", which in truth makes them very similar to soothsayers. They are professional meddlers who should intrude, perhaps, when circumstance are dire, but who should understand the limitations of their endowment in the real world. Hopefully that understanding will power doubt in their work, and they will pursue their helpful tyranny with a clouded conscience, less certain of their own powers, and more confident in fate and providence to untangle the meaning of our lives.






The Federal Potato

After thought

My social worker friends, and I have many, are often hurt by this perspective. They really do work hard, and they honestly do try to help, and feel they do help. The tools they have are few, and the job is huge. They try to be just, within the limits the law and their tools allow. Still, even many of them will admit most of what they do is contain the problem.

I asked a good friend of mine, a master social worker who has done Child Welfare Services, medical social work and served veterans, to read this piece prior to publishing.  Here are his remarks:

Retort! True, but slightly skewed. Anytime bureaucracy is involved there tends to be mega egos and little done. We have seen the innerworkings of a corrupt and inneffective system which puts its own affairs ahead of those who need "services." With that being said, social workers are not aunt Bea or grandma, they are professionals who understand the "system" and have the training to assist others in navigating the murky waters of a "corrupt system" so they can obtain what is needed to survive. As was pointed out in the narrative, some social workers think they are helping when in fact they are interferring in matters best left to the individual. Shame on them! On the other side of the coin are the individuals who have been sucked into an "inept system", do not understand the complexities and seek options that will afford them the means to steer clear of bureaurcratic nonsense such as best practices, evidenced-based practice or structred decision making.
Legal issues such as child protection, domestic violence, etc., should be left to the perview of law enforcement, not to a social worker without a gun, but with that being said, law enforcement, including the "judicial system", should be accountable for their actions to ensure justice. There would be no need for social workers if we lived in a just society, unfortunately we don't and people without the means to buy their way out of situations, created either by their own volition or bureaucratic ineptitude, need someone with the expertise to provide them options. This can be equated to a person riding a horse for the first time. There are options to riding a horse and if no one has explained them, or one hasn't observed others riding, one is liable to get the shit kicked out of one. Some would say learning from experience is the best way to learn, but one might disagree if one is lying on the ground with a busted head.
In the field of social work, people come to the social worker for assistance because they are usually confused or afraid and want viable options.  The social worker's job is to provide them with options, it's usually called common sense, and it is their decision what they choose to do with it. Again, unfortunately, there are many in the helping profession who lack the common sense to mount a horse. Hopefully the social worker's horseshit is valid, genuine, empathetic and the person needing the help rides off into the sunset.

Website Builder