Children in Need and Then There's Fenty  

In the recent past, Mayor of DC, Adrian Fenty has been all too willing to throw workers under the bus in his obsessed mantra of "Accountability". But for once, Adrian isn't calling for the head (yet) of any case workers in this horrific case of abuse and death from the Washington Post:

Early Saturday, Calvert authorities made a gruesome discovery: the bodies of two children encased in ice in a freezer in the home of Renee D. Bowman, 43. Bowman has been receiving a monthly government subsidy of $2,400 to care for her three adopted children: the 7-year-old girl on the street and two others who are now officially missing.

"You think you've seen it all," Sheriff Mike Evans said yesterday in announcing the discovery, "but you haven't."

With Bowman in jail, charged with child abuse, and investigators working to piece together what happened, the case again shined a spotlight on the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency, which recommended Bowman to a D.C. Superior Court judge as a suitable adoptive parent in 2001 and 2004. The girls had been wards of the D.C. government.

Adrian came out to say that there will be an invesigation, but, uncharacteristically, he did not mention firing, yet.

What I've noticed about Mayor Fenty is his willingness to hold workers accountable for things that they may not have the ability to control. In the recent past, The Department of Child and Family Services has been inundated with cases yet they have not been inundated with new social workers nor have they been able to reduce the overwhelming case load most social workers now carry in the District. The case load issue falls directly in Fenty's lap. It is his poor choices in terms of the all encompassing "accountability" mantra that has caused the increase in case load and his firings which have also caused a decrease in staffing. And all of this leads to poor morale.

A few months back I had a chance to speak to a middle manager within family services and she noted that she'd read my posts on these issues (available here), and that yeah, the case load is more than excessive and yep, it sucks coming into the job never knowing if you'll have your job the next day or if you've missed one child too many who needed your help. She noted that as much as all of this sucked, that the worst part was knowing that she didn't become a social worker for money. She did it because she wanted to make a difference in the lives of families. She wanted to protect children and help moms and dads find their way. But she no longer felt that she could do this and was really just waiting to leave.

Besides being an interesting discussion about staffing, cases and families, it was more interesting to hear a perspective of "All I want to do is help, but I no longer can in my current job." There was frustration at missing kids and parents who'd fallen through the cracks. There was this sound in her voice that made me think she'd given up. This is what is saddest of all. Someone who'd only went to school to get a degree so she could help families was no so unhappy that she really just didn't seem to think anything could be done any longer.

See, this is one aspect of the Adrianisms that I have been writing about, the idea that accountability should be about real accountability. And accountability doesn't start with overworked, over stretched and stressed out workers, it begins at the highest levels first. It begins with Adrian Fenty.

I'm hopeful that Council will hold hearings (if they haven't already) on the staffing issues within all of DC government. Children shouldn't suffer the way these three children have suffered. It's time for DC City Council to address service staffing and they need to do it now before any more children die.

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