Friday, April 3, 2015

Calling All DCF Alumnae Staff

Calling All DCF Alumnae Staff,

It was several decades ago that I was hired as a “child welfare worker” with DCF, formerly known as the Division of Child Guardianship (DCG).  I was recruited right out of undergraduate school, with excitement and trepidation under my belt.  I was going to do good work for kids.  I was going to save them from sadness, badness, and madness.  I was going to make my parents proud of me and I was going to buy my first car with my new salary.

For the first week, I shadowed several veteran child welfare workers, none of whom had social work degrees.  I was supervised by several different supervisors, all of whom had MSWs and who patiently explained how to take a history, be nonjudgmental, and complete my paperwork as soon as I got back to the office.  There was Jim Pisciotta and Joe Pare and several other MSW supervisors and managers who helped us inexperienced, uncredentialed, and skill-free recruits keep kids safe.  I was clueless, thinking all I needed was good intentions and a big heart. The supervisors were more intentional, attempting to help us non-social workers understand that it takes much more than a big heart to address the problems that our families faced.  There were histories of alcoholism, poverty, domestic violence, and birth defects- none of which I had experienced growing up or even faced in my later teen years.  I was, indeed, a greenhorn, in foreign territory.

And almost 50 years later, we have pretty much the same situation, with folks coming into the child welfare work world with good intentions and hopes to “do good.”  Many do have social work degrees, and, for these folks, the work is a professional challenge.  For those who have no social work background (where one learns about the complex environmental, social, and biological variables that influence a family’s inability to keep their kids safe and happy), well, they totally struggle even with highly trained social work supervisors.

Child welfare is very serious work.  It is just the kind of work that calls upon one’s social work training, education, and field work.  And that is why NASW-MA has filed legislation that requires anyone who calls themselves a social worker to have a social work background- a BSW or an MSW.  I know how I and my fellow “unprepared recruits” struggled to do the best we could with our variety of non-social work undergraduate backgrounds.  Even with the talent of our social work supervisors, we still had little to offer our families and kids.  NASW-MA will be working with DCF and other child welfare advocates and educators to bring the best trained social work staff to a most valuable human resource: the children and their families.