I Have Forgiven Jesus has a post up on their experiences of the child welfare system from the inside in the state of Wisconsin. I thoroughly recommend reading it:
Social services workers are almost always overworked, underpaid, and very unappreciated. There are no TV shows or movies celebrating what they do. If they’re ever portrayed it’s usually as exhausted and mildly incompetent, with the latter usually being a direct consequence of the former. Compared to other public servants, such as the police, firemen, nurses, and even teachers, they’re largely invisible, little thought of, and certainly not worthy of fetishization by popular culture, as opposed to the aforementioned.
Generally, the only time the general public is aware of anything relating to child welfare is when something horrible happens – a child dying in foster care, or a social worker clearing a family for child abuse or neglect only for one or more children dying. At the same time there is a nagging, and not entirely undeserved perception of child welfare workers breaking apart and ruining families – after all, they are paid representatives of sociopolitical structures that have historically oppressed people unluckily born into bad situations not of their making .
Throwing services at people is analogous to putting bandages on gaping wounds. The child welfare system is a reactionary multifaceted entity that does not, and indeed cannot address and rectify the deep underlying issues relating to institutionalized racism and income inequality. Until these issues are meaningfully addressed, we should expect little to change. The best we as a society can hope for is the ongoing refinement of what works, and the ceasing of what doesn’t.
Ambivalence about granting the government the authority to break your family apart is healthy skepticism. As the post states, the two competing reasons for a child welfare case to be opened are substantiated allegations of sexual abuse, and substantiated allegations of neglect. But are poor parents truly neglecting their children in the way we typically think of the word? There was a local story in my news, for example, of a mother who was referred to Children & Family Services for “dental neglect.” But dentistry is not included in Alberta’s socialized medicine. If the mom cannot afford an appointment, surely that merits a different response than an allegation of sexual abuse. Yet if the family lives in poverty, the effects of that accumulate, and a worker may deem this “danger to the child.”
Like the post says, this is victimizing people for trying to play the hand they’ve been dealt. The service has its uses, but societal inequality has to be addressed to make it more just.
Read more here.