A grim reminder

In recent years, there’s been a lot of criticism aimed at Vermont’s Department of Children and Families. Heck, there’s even a Facebook page entitled “VT and DCF Exposed,” which is a compendium of every news item, large or small, that reflects poorly on DCF. The coherence of its argument is best encapsulated in a comment posted by one Jeannie Flanagan Marchese:

Personal opinion, dcf takes kids away that shouldn’t be. Leaves kids that should be taken!! It’s a crap shoot!!! No excuses for them!!! Sorry just have seen a lot and read a lot!!

Okay, so DCF simultaneously does too much and too little. Got it.

Well, if the senseless tragedy of last Friday’s quadruple murder should teach us anything, it’s that DCF has an impossible job, as do its overburdened, oft-criticized social workers.

Hey, remember 2014, when not one, not two, but three different reports found that DCF simply doesn’t have enough social workers?

Maybe I missed it, but I don’t recall a wave of hiring in the wake of those reports.

And now, the state is apparently focused on how to improve safety and security for social workers. VTDigger reports that Governor Shumlin has “ordered a review of security protocols.” (Kneejerk reaction: a horse gets stolen, lock the barn doors.)

Which is fine, but here’s an idea: instead of passing another law or spending money on, I don’t know, metal detectors or security guards or kevlar vests, how about we give the social workers the resources they need to do their frickin’ jobs?

And, at the same time, how about we suspend the Monday morning quarterbacking and acknowledge that social workers spend their days trying to deal with Vermont’s most troubled residents — a task most of us wouldn’t dream of taking on, and an effort certain to end (occasionally, very occasionally) in failure or tragedy?

That’d be a fitting tribute to Lara Sobel.

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4 thoughts on “A grim reminder

  1. Lee Russ

    “instead of passing another law or spending money on, I don’t know, metal detectors or security guards or kevlar vests, how about we give the social workers the resources they need to do their frickin’ jobs? And, at the same time, how about we suspend the Monday morning quarterbacking and acknowledge that social workers spend their days trying to deal with Vermont’s most troubled residents…”

    Because that’s too much like work, and far too much like substance. Doesn’t bring anywhere near the amount of emotional release as screaming that “Someone [anyone] SUCKS!!!!”

    Besides, that would cost money right? And you can put a number on how much. Isn’t it cheaper to just add to the misery of the already miserable, and maybe lose a few lives to direct violence, and exponentially more lives to indirect violence?

    Just yell loud enough about personal responsibility, that should take everybody’s mind off the problem.

    Reply
  2. Faith Biggs King

    This crime has extraordinarily complicated antecedents, all of which would need to be identified and thoroughly discussed, if, well, there was actually going to be some sustained, serious work done to reduce the likelihood that anything like this happen again…..okay, okay, it could happen. Maybe. Before I go on, I want to disclose that Lara Sobel was a colleague of mine for the last 12 years. I knew her, collaborated with her and considered her to be a tough, strong, careful professional with unusual longevity in her line of work. We both did community-based work with extremely high-risk, high stressed families in central Vermont (albeit for two different agencies) – but Lara and her DCF coworkers in Barre were the most frequent source of referrals to my program. I won’t elaborate here on my personal sadness. That’s a given and is by no means unique, nor, frankly, do my tears – or anyone else’s – accomplish anything. It marks me as a person with a heart. Big deal. (That and ten cents won’t buy you a cup of coffee) Thinking, yes, Virginia, thinking could help. That is, if we are still capable of coming together to think and not just cry. So, preamble complete, here’s my incomplete list of some of the factors here not ranked in any particular order: (1) Guns. These four women were killed by a gun. Not nasty words. Vermont is given an “F” by national Gun Sense organizations for our remarkable absence of almost any regulations of gun purchases, ownership, carrying, sale. “No public safety issues here, folks, let’s just move along…..” Oh,and we just had an armed standoff this afternoon with a gun-fella at the gas station/convenience store in S. Barre. But let’s move along…… (2) Next, right-wing, anti-government hate speech. Where do people think this shrieking rhetoric about state employees comes from? Hmmmm. Perhaps someone might cogitate upon that oh-so-difficult question for a nano second. (3) Third, constantly shrinking financial resources for state and contracted social workers (I’m one of ’em) Can we recall for a moment the constant drum beat of “no raised taxes on the richest citizens?” No matter what….. well, when you cut pay and staff instead of raising revenue, you make a choice. Lots of people like myself running around, trying to help but all too often a day late and a dollar short. (4) a governor who decided Scott Walker was his role model. I appreciate his remarks at the vigil Sunday, but sorry, dude – you are an aggressive, ant-union centrist ready to bring-it to the rank and file whenever you can. A lot of people Shumlin now wants to distance himself from (because they are crazy) really dig that. That’s my short list. I’ll stop now…..quick footnote. Glad your blog is here, John. I tried to post a comment on a Digger article yesterday about loose gun laws and was stopped by the editor – who politely explained to me that she wanted to “report on the issues” (i.e. not guns, you silly person) and that she thought “community healing” would be furthered if she kept any dialogue about nonexistent gun laws in the dust bin……

    Reply
  3. Faith Biggs King

    Quick correction/clarification. I tried to post a comment on a Digger article concerning the Herring crime. My comment – not the article – dealt with Vermont’s lack of gun regulation. The article referenced Herring’s weapon, her ammunition purchases and, I believe, her involvement with the criminal justice system.

    Reply
  4. Dave Katz

    I have it on good authority that many scriveners of the press and blogs receive death threats whenever articles proposing solutions to gun violence appear over their bylines. What these death threats are, is, in fact, terrorism. Just because the vast majority of those threats never come to pass, it’s ALWAYS a fifty-fifty coin toss, isn’t it? Quick recap–a gun suicide in Montpelier, a mass murder in Berlin and Barre, and an armed standoff with the police in South Barre this afternoon, all in the span of two weeks, certainly validates a healthy fear of threats of armed violence whenever those threats are made. And who can really number how many fed-up just regular people stopper up their own outraged response at all this gun murder for fear of provoking an unknown, random armed crazy? If even pro journalists self-censor because, well, you don’t want that to happen to you, do you? Terrorism.

    Reply

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