Working to Stop Child Abuse
By Omari Weekes
Nixzmary Brown died at the age of seven, reportedly over a missing yogurt container. Quachuan Brown died at the age of four by his mother’s boyfriend and a pit bull. Did these deaths have to occur? The Administration of Children’s Services was supposed to be watching over these kids. But, this agency has been flawed for quite some time now. The only crime these children committed was to live in a city that operates under a “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” policy.
The Administration for Children’s Services is an amazing organization in theory. According to its website, ACS’s main goal is to “protect children by investigating an average of 55,000 reports of abuse or neglect each year.” 55,000? That’s all? This is a city with 8 million people living in it. Having a concentrated number of skilled workers investigating these cases should not be too taxing, correct? My mother walks through the door every day in a half-dead state and I do not think it is because of her walk in the park career choice.
My mother has been a caseworker for 13 years. She began her career before the Child Welfare Administration became the Administration for Children’s Services in response to the death of Elisa Izquierdo, a six-year old girl killed by her mother. She became a caseworker because of the the potential good that can come from helping this city’s most helpless citizens. But, ideals are easily shattered.
How many future caseworkers are reading this article? Probably not too many. This job is notorious for its long hours, utilization of more than one discipline, and marginal pay. I once considered being a caseworker just because I like to help people. I quickly shot that notion down because of all the work it entails. Caseworkers review every record for each of their cases monthly. Everything that was written, noted or documented about the people involved in the case, is reviewed. Visits (which are often unannounced) are made twice a month for each assignment in the seediest of New York City’s seedy neighborhoods. Caseworkers then go back and interview everyone that was spoken to and everyone that should have been spoken to, but wasn’t. No stone is left unturned. Questions are asked that put parents on the defensive because, unfortunately, they have to be put on the defensive. No parent wants to be told they are unfit and if they have to lie, they will. Even children are interviewed. They might lie, as well, because no child wants to disgrace their parent. And then there are the court dates. Half of each caseworker’s 12 to 20 cases end up in court each year where the caseworker is needed to argue for or against a child’s removal from a house.
“They need to pay us more so that these [caseworkers] there don’t quit and give the remaining people more work to do. The turnover rate is too high because there is so much to do. It is a very detailed, oriented job,” my mother, Sheila Weekes, says. It is really a simple idea. If caseworkers were paid more, more people would be willing to go into this field. More workers mean work is diffused throughout this larger work force, allowing caseworkers to be more detailed in their investigations. This would lower the chance of a child’s abuse being overlooked if a caseworker is not completely incompetent.
It boggles the mind why people that are so instrumental in the well being of this city’s children are paid so abysmally. Logic dictates that if you want to save children, you would want to keep their saviors happy. As Helen Lovejoy put it so eloquently in an episode of The Simpsons, “Won’t someone please think of the children?”