TV to Watch: Law and Order – Special Victims Unit Episode Institutional Fail
Social workers alerted SocialWorkersSpeak.org to watch the Oct. 7 episode of NBC’s “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” that deals with the impossibly high caseloads of Child Protection Services workers and how they often take the blame when guardians hurt or kill a child.
In the episode”Institutional Fail” a hungry boy named Bruno leaves his cluttered New York City apartment to get food at a corner store. Police search the apartment to locate his missing mother but instead find his sister Keisha locked in a dog kennel, beaten and starved.
Keisha dies from her injuries and malnutrition the next day.
Instead of just going after Keisha’s mother, who is addicted to drugs and admits she abused her daughter, authorities file charges against caseworker Keith Musio (actor John Magaro) and his supervisor Janette Grayson, played by comedian, TV talk show host and Oscar Award-winning actor Whoopi Goldberg.
Police discover Grayson and higher ups had pressured Musio and others to falsify home visit reports to keep up with quotas. They had not visited Keisha’s household in months.
On the witness stand Janette Grayson has a mental breakdown. In a powerful speech she condemns police, the courts and society for using caseworkers as scapegoats while not addressing larger societal problems such as poverty, drug addiction and crime that lead to child abuse and neglect.
“I am asked to do what the courts can’t do, what the cops can’t do,” she said, growing more agitated. “We get the dregs of humanity — they are being raised by wolves. It’s impossible.”
“And everybody knows it — you all know it.”
National Association of Social Workers member Sharon Sterling, LCSW, in Arizona was impressed by the episode.
“This fictional but very true-to-life show realistically portrayed the challenges facing Child Protective Services workers and the consequence for innocent victims of abuse and neglect when workers fail at the impossible task of too many cases and too little support,” Sterling wrote. “Whoopi Goldberg played the supervisor who is both victim and perpetrator in a flawed system.”
The episode is available on Hulu.com and video-on-demand from your local cable provider.| Leave A Comment