To the editor:
In the past week, I have seen many, many posts to social media about the situation that has happened in Perry with the adopted girl, Sabrina Ray, who died and how DHS and providers who worked with that foster/adoptive family “failed” her.
As someone with a decade of experience in the field, I have been asked my opinion many times. Here it is:
There is a common misconception that social workers have the legal ability to remove children in cases of suspected child abuse. The only three people who have that legal ability are judges, police officers and doctors. In order for any of them to do so, however, there has to be evidence that the child’s safety is in imminent danger.
Despite trying to do thorough investigations, DHS can’t always prove imminent danger if the kids aren’t talking or if the perpetrators are really good at diverting and covering up the abuse.
Also, although it would be good for DHS to just show up with no advance notice, this doesn’t mean the people will be home or will even allow DHS into the home to have access to the kids. Think of all of the time and resources that would be drained from social workers who don’t have much of it to begin with.
I don’t argue that this is a systemic issue. However, everyone I see on these news articles claiming that these DHS workers failed this girl need to take a step back and remember that just because you’re a social worker, you don’t have some almighty, omniscient power to do what you want without having to have evidence to back it up.
Remember that social workers are human. People are manipulative, and no one is perfect. As with any profession, I’m sure there are bad eggs or people who don’t do a very good job. However, in my experience, there are way more social workers who do their jobs and do them very well. Anyone who thinks they could do this job should go try. It’s not an easy one.
Additionally, I see a ton of people who have said, “Oh, I would take that kid,” or “I would do more but . . .”
There is no “but.” Do more! Put your money where your mouth is! There is a desperate need for foster homes in Iowa right now. There is a huge need for donations to food pantries. There is an immense need for clothing donations. There is always need for volunteers in local children’s programs.
Most importantly of all, there is the greatest need for people to open their mouths and report things when they see them and not just walk by and mind their own business simply because it doesn’t affect them.
If people want to see things change, it starts within the community. It starts with knowing your neighbors and being good to one another and – not to make this political – voting for people who want to help people instead of cut the services in their communities, especially in rural communities like Perry, and put more restrictions in place!
Lastly, I worked with this family years ago because they fostered prior clients of mine. They had their ducks in a row. They seemed “normal” and safe. So normal and safe, in fact, that they did daycare for my own son on a few occasions when his normal daycare provider needed a day off or was sick.
Do those of you who have written hateful, horrible things on the news articles posted about this situation think that I, as a mother and a social worker, haven’t already questioned and scrutinized myself over and over about whether or not there was anything I possibly missed?
The horrible, judgmental posts on Facebook I’ve seen about the people who “failed this girl” or “allowed her to be murdered” need to stop. Just because you read a news article on Facebook, it doesn’t mean you know everything about the situation or events that have led up to this horrible tragedy.
Step away from the safety behind your keyboards and if you truly want awful things to stop happening to children in our communities, then do something to actually contribute and be a solution to the issue.
Hate breeds hate, but luckily love and support breeds unity and safety to kids who need it the most. Thank you.