Sunday, November 1, 2009

How To Fix Child Welfare, From An Expert

There is a must read column in the editorial section in this morning's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The piece was written by John B. Mattingly, who is the commissioner of the New York City Administration for Children's Services (emphasis mine):

Public child welfare systems in crisis and political bodies typically react by taking these additional steps:

• Someone will be blamed and disciplined.

•  Task forces will issue reports that yet again express shock over the quality of decisions made by the agency and place increased pressure on staff and managers to make fewer mistakes.

•  Legislative committees will call for increased or improved training, with the assumption that staff are making the same mistakes over and over because they simply don't know what to do.

•  Rules will be tightened; levels of case monitoring will be added. The latitude for independent judgment by the only staff with knowledge of the family will be decreased yet again.

Even more typical, however, are the pressures that Wisconsin already has felt to fix the problem and fix it now, in one of two contradictory ways: 1) Make child protection the "No. 1" response and err more on the side of child safety; or 2) as some advocates suggest, somewhat counterintuitively, remove children far less frequently.

Unfortunately, experience across the country indicates that there is no quick fix (such as more or fewer removals); there is no silver bullet (such as privatization); there is no free lunch (caseload sizes always matter); there is no knight in shining armor (a new and better leader from out of town).

There is only the work: building a large public agency with all of its weaknesses that will focus on making the right decision for each and every family, time after time after time.

The highlighted part describes the approach Milwaukee County had used when it still had control over its own system, before Tommy Thompson, Scott Walker, Alberta Darling and Margaret Farrow decided it would be a great idea to take the system over and privatize it.

Their idea is still not working too well.


  1. And how much do they pay this moron in New York. They should demand their money back.
    Funny you didn't mention any democrats who have screwed up the system. Pathetic.
    How would I handle the situation: First make the social workers and supervisors liable when they screw up. That could criminal or financial. Second, I would open up the field to include teachers, clergy, health care workers to become intake workers and work in the field. Right now, unless you are a social worker, you are pretty much shut out.
    I would like to hold judges responsible, but that is impossible. I would like to take the judges out of the decesion making process. They often don't understand or are too stupid to know what is best for the child.
    Finally, you need a hard ass administrator who doesn't take crap from anyone- unions, families, attorneys, judges etc. and looks out for the best interests of the kids.

  2. Dan,

    It used to be that anyone could work as an intake worker as long as they had a college degree. It was the Republicans that required them to be certified as social workers so that they could make it into a revenue generator.

    But I find it interesting that you would take judges out of the picture. That would indicated that you're OK with a bureaucrat making the decision if you could keep your kids or if you could ever get them back. This is laughable since you are so dead set against a responsible and affordable health care system because it would be "controlled by bureaucrats."

  3. Umm, no capper, health care and child welfare are two totally different animals.

  4. My comparison is still valid. You cannot be OK with a bureaucrat making life-changing decisions on one hand, but not the other.

    Consistency is important.

  5. I am ok with both, so I am consistant, as long as they have experience.
    But I would hope most cases would not end up before a judge. That is why I think you need a variety of experiences working in CPS. As a teacher, i may have a better insight to a problem as ou, as a social worker and there are times, when you, as a social worker hasd a better insight than I do.
    I don't give a rip, unlike you, who is to blame. Tghere is enough blame to go around, but for some reason, you don't see it that way.
    If you want to solve the problem, and I really don't know if the problem can be solved, is for all people get together. It's pretty obvious that you think liberals can solve the problem, but they haven't and children are still being killed, thanks to liberal policies.

  6. Dan,

    The whole blooming post is how to fix it. Privatizing the system, making it much more expensive and much less effective and safe, was purely a Republican scheme.

    As for the judge, I would still prefer to have an objective third party make the decision. Leaving it in the hands of only the bureaucrat makes it to easy for abuses of power.