Long time readers might recall that I used to work for the Milwaukee County Child Welfare System (the foster care system) in the late 1990's. It was one of the most difficult and most rewarding jobs I've ever had. Sadly, in 1998, then Governor Tommy Thompson and his fellow Republicans took over Milwaukee County's system, insisting that they weren't really under-funding the system (even though independent studies found that they were) and could do it better by privatizing it.
The county was able to stay in the system, winning many of the contracts the state was giving out. By 2001, the state had completely cut the county out of any aspect of caring for its own foster children.
Since that time, the state's Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare has been plagued with problems stemming from extremely high staff turnover to continued abuse of foster children to children being killed. The problems were traced back to the affects of austerity, including a severe staffing shortage and insufficient training.
Ironically, the state has been pumping tens of millions of dollars into the system since the takeover. But when that money goes to constantly training new workers - not to mention lining the pockets of the administrators even more deeply - there is little to give to the workers and even less to pay for the much needed services.
The state has only made things worse by deciding that intake workers - the people on the front line who do the investigations into possible abuse and/or neglect - didn't even need to have the necessary education or experience to work in the field.
That is how little they think of our children.
Now they think of them even less, judging from this letter from State Representatives LaTonya Johnson and Chris Taylor to Eloise Anderson, Secretary of the Department of Children and Families:
It's outrageous that nearly 3,000 children who might be in peril have to wait months to have a worker get to them. The "stick it to them" approach that the Teapublicans and Republicrats have had toward Milwaukee are well known, but to revictimize innocent children is simply unacceptable.
Because of the legislative attention this untenable situation has received, it will be brought up at the Partnership Council, this coming Friday, July 25. The meeting is from 12 - 2 pm at 635 N. 26th Street in Milwaukee. If you are able, please attend and demand answers as to why Madison is allowing our children to linger in possible peril for months at a time.