The gains won by Los Angeles County social workers during their strike last December were nothing short of historic. Members of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), through the Children’s Social Workers union (part of Service Employees International Union Local 721), may have begun a sea change for children and families in the county. As the nation’s largest public child welfare agency, DCFS is now poised to be a bellwether for reform.
The job of the county’s social workers is to establish child safety, coordinate and evaluate visitation, substance abuse, mental health and domestic violence services; locate relative or foster care placements; prepare the children and transport them to placements; and for dependency court cases, prepare and write the court reports that are the basis for DCFS’ legal recommendations in legal proceedings.
As a former DCFS Supervising Social Worker, I believe that the high number of pre-strike caseloads severely hindered the ability of social workers to adequately provide services to maintain children at home or to reunify children with their parents and conduct thorough safety assessments.