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NASW official says LA County needs to hire more professional social workers

The Los Angeles Times ran an article this week that said the Los Angeles County’s child protective agency is at fault for recent child deaths mainly because it put inexperienced “social workers” in the crucial job of assessing whether children are in danger.

The article used the term “caseworker” and “social worker” interchangeably, leading to wonder whether the county’s staff is mostly educated and licensed social workers or non-social work educated employees who can use the social work title.

Only in the second to last paragraph  did the article say that rules requiring master’s degrees in social work have been waived for half of the department frontline personnel and all of their supervisors.

Janlee Wong

Janlee Wong

National Association of Social Workers California Chapter Executive Director Janlee Wong, MSW, attempted to set the record straight. Wong said few employees at the agency are social workers and the county needs to hire better educated and trained social workers.

Here is a comment Wong posted on the Los Angeles Times website on Feb. 14:

“A critical need in the child welfare and protection system is to have well trained professional social workers. These highly trained professional social workers are available now but it is estimated that for L.A. county, less than a third of these highly trained professionals are hired.

Inter University Consortium (IUC) and the California Social Work Education Center (CALSWEC) social workers are trained in child protection through the schools of social work throughout California. Professional social workers have case carrying experience and a specialization in child welfare.

It is our responsibility as a society to step in and help these families by supporting the child for short or longer times outside of their families by employing the very best professionally trained social workers and supporting them in a professional and adequately resourced system.

The National Association of Social Workers is supporting legislation to clarify to consumers and their families and to the general public that a social worker is someone with a formal professional training and education in social work. NASW’s hope is that with this clarification, it will lead to a largely specially trained professional social worker workforce in the child welfare system, and thereby greatly reduce or eliminate repetition of these tragic cases in the future.”



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  1. How about title protection legislation so individuals who do NOT have a masters in social work cannot call themselves “social workers”. I am tired of individuals with as little as a high school degree running around calling themselves “social workers”. I am also tired of nurse case managers with as little as an AA degree stealing our jobs and getting paid twice as much. Things like these are driving down our employment opportunities and pay.

    I strongly believe that lack of title protection is the biggest problem we have when it comes to lack of respect and lack of pay!

  2. I am deeply disappointed that NASW is not supporting any state bill to help reduce workload/caseload for Social Workers and Case Managers. The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has made efforts to attract workers who have a Master’s Degree in Social Work; however, most workers do not remain at DCFS for long as a result of the high caseloads/workload. DCFS gives out stipends for students who are obtaining their Master’s in Social Work but these workers leave after they have completed their one- or two-year commitment. This year, DCFS did not hire all of their MSW interns because it did not have a need for social workers. Apparently, most offices are fully staffed. Although a study completed in 2000, pursuant to SB 2030, concluded that social workers responsible for providing emergency response should have a caseload of approximately 13; however, these workers are currently carrying as high as 27 cases. Social Workers who are providing family reunification services are currently carrying about 51 cases even though the study found that these workers should have approximately 15 cases. Currently, DCFS has no obligation to assign families with a Social Worker who has enough time to provide adequate services and NASW should take action to change this.

  3. NASW-CA is absolutely interested in legislation that would help reduce workload/caseload for Social Workers. There has not been a bill to tackle the caseload issue for quite some time but if there had been, we definitely would have been in support. As the fiscal situation in California improves, we will look at taking a more proactive approach.

  4. I have been working for LA County DCFS for over 10 years. I started with my BA and now have my LCSW. I also have outside experience in different SW settings. Although I agree with some of the NASW concerns, it doesn’t really target the primary problems that DCFS has, which is the high case loads and difficult case work. It’s almost impossible to do “real” SW with “our” families because we are constantly juggling the case work, the constant crisis’ and the poor foster care system that doesn’t support our goals. Most SWs come into this work hoping to make a difference, but quickly learn that they will only reach few clients because we are always buried under paper work, assignments, policies and court reports (we didn’t go to school to become paralegals). The work that is expected of us can ONLY happen with lower case loads. There is NO other way around it. You can put every single MSW in ER (emergency response) and they too will quickly become overwhelmed and bombarded with responsibilities that will not allow them to do the best SW/assessments that they need to do. Plus SWs do not make decisions alone. Any legal action, such as detaining a child or returning a child to his parents has to be reviewed and approved by the court system.
    In addition, don’t forget that services workers are just as busy and they are responsible to provide supervision, reunify families, ensure parents are in compliance, close cases, find homes for children who constantly runaway and have mental health and behavioral issues in a foster care system that rejects them, handle ER referrals on open cases and write never ending court reports. Services CSWs have to constantly assess for safety as well. They need professional SWs too, but more importantly they need lower case loads
    Please support us and help us help “our children” and “our families”, but not by bashing the never ending work we do, but by helping us to find solutions to lower our case load/work in order to really do SW, whether we are at a BA level or Masters level.

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