Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Lawsuits and foster care

Related to Jeremy's post (that I'm still thinking about, especially after having lectured on welfare reform and the Personal Responsibility Act today), I saw this article, scheduled to run in tomorrow's Times. It seems that foster care is so horribly awry in Oklahoma that a major lawsuit is underway on behalf of the system's children.

Aside from the use of lawsuits to remedy a clearly broken system (Laura?), it's also interesting to me the comment on who serves as social workers:

"Caseworkers, who are supposed to monitor foster homes regularly and connect children with services, often have more than 50 clients, compared with the 12 to 15 recommended by professional groups.

Because the work is stressful and the pay is low, starting at $26,000, turnover is high and many case workers are young and inexperienced."

Remember those people in college who want to "help people?" How prepared are they when they get thrown into these situations?


JeremyC said...

Yes. Especially when the best qualified people also have debt getting their advanced degrees (MSW or the like) in addition to undergraduate debt. And the thanklessness of the job, since you serve as the face of a system that's difficult to navigate and very frustrating and therefore take a lot of flak for it, cannot be underestimated. Imagine a job where you are underpaid, overworked, and almost never appreciated.

gale said...

It makes me want to return to a Jackie plan for a settlement house - at least in those kinds of communities in the early 1900s you had community. Other people doing what you were doing, and, forgive the elitism, a "civilized" place to discuss books and ideas and policy with the best thinkers of the day (at Hull House - the U of C people). The neighboring immigrant poor were invited in too, incorporated rather than excluded.

Not on your own, working for a faceless bureaucracy. Where, if it's anything like the academy, those who are bad at one job simply get promoted - freeing their old colleagues of the burden.

Greg Allen said...

Is there a model to better compensate folks who do this type of work? Given the eventually social costs of kids who lack support early on, it would interesting to find a way to capture those future costs and distribute projected savings to care givers. Ex. It costs $1,000 each time this kid goes the ER. W/o care, they go once a month. Kids with case workers go once a quarter. Case worker saves 8 ER trips per year, or $8k. Sees 10 kids, that's $60k with a discount. Problem is, the future costs are connected to the prevention.

Or, hope that these foster kids grow up to be rich and create a foundation to support case workers.

Speaking of settlement houses, why does it seem like attempts at "civilized" discussion groups usually turn out to be 9/11 truth movement meetings?

gale said...

Greg - What are truth movement meetings? Is this some San Francisco thing? I don't think we "do" 9/11 truth so much in Houston. Except for the Friday-afternoon anti-war protesters who gather on a bridge over the highway by my house. I bet they do truth.

Also, I think that no one ever does cost-benefit analyses for how we treat poor children - in schools, in regards to social workers, health care, etc. Maybe this is part of the genius to the NPR story Jeremy posted - we never think about foster children growing up - they seem to always be children (because there are always new children filling in their places).

I wonder if policy people factor in how not paying for good foster care now will create costs for society later - incarcerations, public health costs, legal fees, etc.