Protecting vulnerable children

Do social workers make mistakes? Yes, but their intentions are good

The author is executive director of Youth for Change, a nonprofit service agency that operates more than a dozen programs in Butte County, including Family Resource Centers in Oroville and Paradise and the 6th Street Center for Youth in Chico.

As a longtime resident of Butte County, I am compelled to respond to the article “Fighting for their families” (Cover story, by Meredith J. Graham, March 22). My response is not to the individual case highlighted in the article, but to our county as a whole.

Yes, we have a high incidence of child removal in this county. Unfortunately, our county also suffers from an incredibly high rate of drug abuse. There is a high correlation between these two facts. If we want to lower the incidence of removing children from their families, we need to create communities with less drug use/abuse. It is easier said than done.

I do know that a few years ago Butte County had well over 750 children placed in out-of-home care, so to now have fewer than 600 is a dramatic decrease.

As executive director of a nonprofit agency serving children and families, I am familiar with many of the programs and services (some of these are recognized as statewide models) that have been developed in this county to help keep children safe and, whenever possible, in their homes. Unfortunately, this cannot always happen. When children are removed, an effort is made to place them with other family members. Again, this cannot always happen either.

I am aware of other counties, such as Sacramento, that have been widely criticized for a tragic death of a child after they chose not to remove a child from his or her parent. There is no crystal ball that allows a social worker to know what the future will bring. Often there are no decisions made that don’t have a combination of good and unfortunate consequences. I, personally, would rather see an error made on the side of removing a child than to do nothing and possibly have to live with a child’s death.

Butte County’s Children’s Services Division has many caring and dedicated staff who only want to look out for the best interests of the children they are charged to protect. Do people, at times, make mistakes? Yes, but it isn’t because they aren’t trying to do the right thing. These are tough decisions with potentially huge consequences.

We would all love to see every child living in a safe and supporting home with their parent(s). It is all of our responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of all the children in Butte County.

Please support those who work tirelessly to ensure the safety of vulnerable children.