However, the system was struggling greatly due to the state underfunding the program. Even though independent audits showed this to be true, the state claimed that it was due to mismanagement and took it over by tucking two lines into the state budget.
It did not take long for the state to start privatizing services, with Milwaukee County being completely kicked to the curb by 2001. Since then, Milwaukee County citizens had no say whatsoever in what happened with its children or their protection. Yeah, the Republicans were too keen on local control 20 years ago either.
The system that the state implemented was designed to fail. It had private agencies competing with each other instead of cooperating to serve the children. Furthermore, the focus on the bottom line instead of the well-being of the children led the agencies to hire people just coming out of college while eschewing older, more experienced workers. The results were predictable:
What Sykes and the editorial board are either unable or unwilling to understand is that all of this means very little, if anything at all. La Causa pulling out of their contract won't fix the entire system. All that will happen is that yet another agency, probably that Children's Hospital group, will be plugged into that spot, and the same problems will continue.An internal audit by the state showed that they were continuing to have problems, including an extraordinarily high rate of turnover among staff. Even though the pay was fairly high - higher than what the county paid - the state could not keep staff due to the hostile and burdensome work conditions.
It's a bit like watching a football game. If the coach has drawn up a bad game plan, it doesn't matter who is on the field, and pulling one player for the other isn't going to change the fact that it is the game plan that is faulty.
It doesn't matter who the case managing agency is, if the whole paradigm of the system is faulty. The same problems will arise, and children will continue to be murdered. This is evidenced by the fact that the BMCW has already gone through a number of private agencies over the past decade, and yet the problems, and the deaths, remain constant.
It also does not hold the ones that are truly responsible for this ongoing calamity accountable for the role that they played in adapting such a idiotic paradigm that has failed in every other state that it's been tried in. It is well beyond time for the state legislature and the governor to get off their collective duffs and actually do something substantial to fix the system.
What good are twice a month visits if the worker still doesn't know what he or she should be looking for? There is a need to streamline the system so that workers can actually do what they are supposed to do, provide services to the child and to the family, as opposed to endless, redundant paperwork. There is a need for the BMCW to actually provide comprehensive training BEFORE the worker is assigned a caseload. And if there weren't so many administrations sucking money up, there would be more money for actual caseworkers and for services. Then maybe some of these tragedies could be prevented.
When I've talked to friends who are still involved in the child welfare system, they tell me that the same problems are continuing and that nothing seemed to be improving. I have heard people not employed by the system complain that they feel like they have to train the workers themselves to keep the system working and to keep the children safe.
And we get all of this lack of improvement at a price tag of tens of millions of dollars more each year than if they had simply appropriately funded the county's program.
Sadly, it appears that things are about to get much worse.
I have received an email pointing out that the state, in an effort to recruit more employees, have lowered the standards required for the job. Where it once required the employee to have at least a Bachelor's Degree in social work or other related fields, the bar has been substantially dropped.
The application to work for the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare (BMCW) is more concerned if the applicant has a driver's license than the appropriate education and experience. In fact, you don't even need to be a college graduate anymore to be hired, which should scare the heck out of anyone who cares about children.
I have also been informed that the BMCW has about 50 openings at this time. The lowering of requirements and credentials is no doubt a move to fill these positions with warm bodies, whether they are qualified or not, and to do so on the cheap.
Funny thing is, I bet we won't be hearing Charlie Sykes or any of the other GOP mouthpiece complaining about the decrease in services or any further avoidable deaths in the future. That might hurt Scott Walker's chances in his run for the presidency.