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NASW Official: Child Protection Work Difficult Job that is Minimized

National Association of Social Workers senior consultant Joan Zlotnik said in this USA Today/Burlington Free Press article there is growing anger in United States over child abuse fatalities but many people do not understand how complex and difficult child protective services work can be.

The comments from Zlotnik, PhD, ACSW, came almost a week after the shooting death of social worker Lara Sobel, MSW, by the mother of girl put in protective custody. The woman also murdered three family members.

The tragedy has put greater attention on the challenges and dangers such employees experience.

Zlotnik said in Vermont and other states social service workers are not required to have a social work degree. Proper education and training can mean the difference between life and death for a child, said NASW member Katharine Briar-Lawson, a social welfare professor at the University of Albany in New York who was also interviewed in the article.

“It’s a very hard job and minimized nationally,” Zlotnik said. “The thought is it’s something anyone can do.”

Other studies have said child protection caseworker should have lower caseloads and Vermont Department of Children and Families Commissioner Ken Schatz and Gov. Shumlin  said there should be more positive communication about the important role of child protection workers.

“The dialogue has digressed to the point where we must all answer it and we can no longer be silent,” the governor said. “Hateful speech leads to hateful acts.”

Social workers help families overcome life’s challenges. To learn more visit the National Association of Social Workers’ “Help Starts Here” Kids and Families website.

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  1. I completely agree that it is / was a tragedy.

    However it’s also a tragedy that a 10 month old child is taken from his biological home, abused, neglected, and molested all while in a foster / adoptive home. When that child is no longer wanted he is systematically thrown away.

    It’s also a tragedy kids are murdered by foster care homes, abused, exploited, All while the system is completely aware of it but does nothing to prevent nor protect the kids they placed there.

    NASW JUST BECAUSE YOU LOST ONE OF YOUR OWN DOESN’T MAKE THE REST OF US ANY LESS IMPORTANT. Oh and anyone who demeans this post will have my wrath to deal with. It maybe more civil, legal, and regulatory. But it really is disturbing that one death or abuse outweighs another in importance.

  2. I received my MSW last December from Barry University. I must say the training I received at Barry made all the difference for me when interacting with the clients on my caseload. My undergrad is in Criminal Justice and in that major we are trained to focus on the behaviors and not the root of the behaviors. My MSW trained me to look at my clients from a holistic view and also how to treat each client as an individual not a number. This being said, I was working as a social worker in a residential facility and my last day was yesterday. Social Workers aren’t respected and instead are treated like robots and are expected to be errand workers and genies. It’s sad to say but I have decided to walk away from the field of Social Work due to the high stress level and very low pay. Walmart cashiers are now making $17 hourly while some social workers are barely making $15. Companies need to start valuing their Social Workers, It’s hard work getting that degree not to mention the cost. Maybe this tragic incident will pave the way for social workers around the world. #IAMLARASOBEL

  3. Kansas has a difficult time hiring and keeping child welfare social workers because a) they don’t pay them enough; b) the responsibilities and stresses on them continue to mount; and c) seldom are children removed from their homes, even when abuse is substantiated. The most experienced social workers, in my opinion, are really needed on the investigative/intake end of the system. But because they won’t raise salaries and can’t find licensed people to fill these positions, they have now begun hiring unlicensed workers to investigate intakes. Imagine how this affects morale for licensed, experienced social workers with masters degrees who have made protecting children their life’s work. Kansas also privatized child welfare services in 1996 and at the time, it was sold as an opportunity to improve outcomes for foster children. Initially, more children did receive mental health and other services they had long been denied. But now, especially in light of Kansas’ current self-inflicted economic austerity, it seems like the state abandoned minimum standards of care for children and now it approves the low bid from these nonprofit contractors, every single time. It’s really a disgrace.

  4. It is a tragic shame that child protective services usually is among the first county services to receive the fiscal ax when our business-minded politicians decide to be financially conservative. They have no idea of the disaster they will reap when the tragedy occurs. Will our public officials ever under-stand that workers need to support their families while protecting the public’s families?

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