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  • Quality of Life Alliance

A Tale of Two Child Welfare Systems

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on January 25, 2010

Trying to suppress my revulsion at some of the people who consider themselves parents these days, I couldn’t help but notice a remarkable difference between two different child welfare systems here in Wisconsin.

The first story involves a family in Dodge County, and how the parents were literally starving their daughter to death. From Channel 12 news:

Police said Kathryn, the girls step-mother, locked the family’s refrigerator door and cupboards to keep the girl from getting food.

According to court records the girl weighed 98 pounds when she was 12-years-old. The documents show her weighing just 70 pounds a year later. A doctor who examined the girl says she had the appearance of a ‘concentration camp survivor.’

Police said Krier eventually pulled her step-daughter out of school because the ‘school gave the girl breakfast when she was hungry.’

Court documents show that the girl had been seen by numerous doctors and social workers but the problem was not discovered for years because ‘Kathryn Kreier manipulated information and misled service providers, the school and social services.’

Like I said, these people are pretty sick.

On the bright side, Dodge County child welfare workers did crack through the lies of the parents and the child is now placed in her grandparents’ home, where she will hopefully also get counseling, since I have no doubts that there was significant emotional abuse, and probably physical abuse as well.

Now compare that to what happens in the heavily privatized child welfare system in Milwaukee County:

They were not the only adults who failed to appreciate the gravity of Lamour’s condition.

Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare workers, according to a Journal Sentinel investigative report that appeared in October, failed to act on clear and repeated warnings that the infant was in danger.

[…]

When Lamour was born on June 1, 2008, a misdemeanor neglect charge was pending against Morehouse. According to court documents, she had left a 6-year-old son home alone. The boy was found sleeping in a park across the street from her apartment.The bureau was notified of the neglect. It was the second call the bureau had received about Morehouse in a week, the sixth in less than three years.

Morehouse was first reported to the bureau in November 2005 because her 18-month-old child had a broken arm. Morehouse said the child had fallen down steps. A bureau worker ruled claims of abuse unsubstantiated.

Five days later, the bureau received a report that Morehouse’s boyfriend was abusing the toddler. Though the abuse allegation was substantiated, child welfare investigators were unable to determine who had injured the child, and the case was closed.

The bureau received a third call in February 2007. The allegation of neglect was unsubstantiated, and the case was closed.

The bureau received yet another call alleging neglect six months later. That complaint also was ruled unsubstantiated.

Four days before Morehouse’s 6-year-old was found in the park, the bureau investigated allegations that the boy had been left alone while she was in jail. The child had been with relatives, a worker determined.

Morehouse was six months pregnant with Lamour when the 6-year-old was found. After the misdemeanor neglect charge was issued later that month, a bureau worker made three unsuccessful visits to Morehouse and her children at their home. No one answered the door, and the worker left.

“No services were provided to the family prior to the death of Baby Lamar (sic),” according to a report by the Department of Children and Families, which runs the Milwaukee bureau.

Cyrus Behroozi, a department administrator, said at the time: “The failure to act is inexcusable.”

Even though tax payers are pumping in tens of millions of dollars into the system more than when the county ran it, less of the money is getting to the kids or their families for the services they need.

So where is all this extra money going to, if it is not being used for the kids? Well, it sure as anything is not going to the workers, since they are getting so burned out that the entire system is experiencing a higher than acceptable level of turnover (which is common among all private social services agencies). And anyone that has worked in the social services field will tell you that this is not the area to go if you ever want to be rich.

Most of this extra money went to three basic areas.

One area was an overblown computer system that was supposed to eliminate the paperwork, but only increased it, and created other problems as well. The biggest secondary problem was that the workers were being tied down to their computers filling out all of the extra and duplicitous paperwork instead of actually getting out and spending time on their cases.

The second area all of this money is going to is to train the constant influx of new workers. Instead of relying on those evil and greedy government workers that actually new the system, the powers that be at the time (Taxin’ Tommy Thompson, Margaret Farrow, Alberta Darling and yes, my buddy, Scott Walker) thought it’d be better to privatize the system, knowing damn well that the agencies would be hiring people as cheaply as they could. The below average wages, along with high case loads and ever-increasing demands of bureaucratic paper shuffling caused a turn over rate above 50%. This meant that the BMCW was running an almost endless series of training classes for all the new workers coming in.

The third area, and the one with probably the highest take, is all of the different administrations of all the different agencies. If you have a system with state workers and five different agencies contracted to the state, you end up paying for six sets of administrations. While the state-employed administrators are well compensated to say the least, they are paupers compared to the administrators of many of the private agencies. Furthermore, these agencies have been known to spend some of their money on such things as conference tables costing almost $10,000 and promotional products such as pens, coffee cups and sweatshirts and coats with their agency’s name and logo on them.

All of this is money that could have gone to hire more workers and/or provide more services to these kids, and might have kept them safe.

As dismaying as it may be to know that our tax dollars are being squandered on these frivolities while are children are dying, what is equally disheartening are the people that have such a skewed and distorted view of the world that they would rather see things like this than entertain the thought that the money be spent responsibly and what it was meant for – the kids. After all, that would just mean more big government in their hate-filled eyes.

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