Friday, August 9, 2013

Hell Is Still For Children, Especially In Milwaukee

As the long time readers might recall, I had worked for Milwaukee County Child Welfare for almost seven years.  During that time, the work was hard, but very rewarding.

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.

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.
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.

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.


  1. Does anyone know if the pay grade of these new, less qualified workers has been lowered along with the minimum requirements?

  2. According to the compensation plan, the salary actually for entry level applicants went up substantially. The workers who are upset about this development are not worried about their own financial well being, they are concerned about what might happen to the children when a large number of untrained, unqualified people get sent out into the Milwaukee communities to decide if children stay at home or go into care, which is some sad cases decides if they live or die. It is a job where it is very easy to make mistakes and leave a child unsafe or take a child from innocent, loving parents. The only way to prevent that is to have better qualified people, better training (right now the training supervisor is a gentleman with no experience in the field and and educational background in communications)and better policies. Rather than doing that, solving their retention problem, they are instead making it easier to hire the wrong people, with the wrong training and policies that created a resounding 50% vacancy rate.

  3. Hell is for children of unwed teens.

    Not my fault...

    Not my problem...

    1. Except, your fault or not, the children of unwed teenage mothers are going to be your problem as a tax payer. Especially if those children end up in foster care or treatment settings. Then those kids can cost the local tax payer thousands of dollars a month. Worse yet, if that child dies because an untrained person failed to properly assess risk, the local tax payers can be on the hook for millions of dollars in legal fees and settlements. So think carefully before you say something "isn't your problem"

    2. You may not have impregnated those teens, but I assure you as a former teen mom and current professional working with children many of whom are wards of the state, it is your problem. In one way or another your heartless attitude towards kids who also never asked to be born will come back to bite you. Those kids will grow up, some will become ruthless criminals because their traumas detach them from feeling anything at all. They will likely continue the cycle of unwed moms as grown men and boys take advantage of them causing a need for more resources. They will fill more labor and delivery wards, emergency rooms, take up police and fire services causing your wait times to increase since I will bet you consider yourself pro-life, you've taken away the possibility of saving unwanted pregnancies from continuing to term. More unwanted kids cause a greater burden on the system obliterating an already broken system. You quickly dismiss these kids because you've never met one that has been beaten, burned, sold to pedophiles for crack, and sexually abused in the foster home they were to be safe in. You've never had to fight with your brain for sleep as you agonize over the reality these innocent beings whose eyes decry the stealing of their souls. You say it isn't your fault, your problem, and you don't care. You got the last part right. Because you don't care, it is your fault. Because you don't care it is your problem. Because you are heartless and have no conscience, you contribute to the problem every time you vote for those "Christian" politicians who act nothing like Jesus. You contribute to the problem every time you care more about control of a uterus and belittle these kids for existing at the same time. You are the problem, you believe it is a black problem or a brown problem, but largely it is the apathy of Americans like you towards Americans like them that is exactly the problem. I hope your nights are filled with tortuous images and agonizing emotions like mine. I hope you feel every inch of horror these kids go through. Maybe then you'll gain a heart. Maybe then you'll be worthy of me giving a shit about you.