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TV to Watch: Grey’s Anatomy’s “Not Responsible”

Dr. Phil Stark (actor Peter MacNicol) urges staff to call social workers to investigate the child of a woman with Alzheimber's. Photo courtesy of

In the Feb. 24 episode of  ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, “Not Responsible,” social workers get mentioned but not necessarily in a positive light.

Dr. Phil Stark (actor Peter MacNicol) asks hospital staff to report a family to social workers at Child Protective Services. The mother has early onset Alzheimer’s disease and the frazzled father is too busy to take his son to the hospital to get a possibly life-threatening tumor removed from his throat.

Staff are against calling in a social worker, saying removing the child from the home would be traumatic. The son is also a primary caregiver for his mother.

Social workers, as is often the case, are portrayed as bureaucratic “baby stealers.” However, Dr. Stark defends social workers, saying they are not as cold-hearted as pediatric surgeons such as himself.

“Social workers on the other hand are bleeding hearts,” he says. ” They are earning peanuts. They’re doing  this thankless work and then they get painted for being homewreckers. For simply stepping in when children are being harmed.”

You can watch the full episode on by clicking here.

Q: Do you think Dr. Stark’s positive comments about social workers will help offset the stereotype of social workers breaking up families?

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  1. Having watched the episode, I think that the verbiage was fair. You had characters openly stating the negatives of social workers in the child welfare field, and ultimately another character who completely vindicated and advocated for social workers and the child welfare field, while vilifying the characters who demonized “us.”

  2. Having watched the episode and being a Protective Services worker I enjoyed having my profession defended for once in the media. We are often seen as “homewreckers” who take kids away on a whim and there is little understanding of the complexities of child protection and child welfare. It wasn’t perfect but it was better than what is often portrayed.

  3. What would doctors do without social workers? They’d be screwed.

  4. That’s interesting
    I saw them being painted in a positive light. Everything the annoying Dr.Stark is the truth – when I saw the episode my sister who happens to be Social worker and myself clapped. Its not often in television when they are shown in such a good light. Thanks Greys Anatomy.

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