LOS ANGELES CHILD PROTECTIVE AGENCY WORKERS TOLD TO “DO YOUR JOB“
by Sharon Rondeau
(Oct. 5, 2013) — On October 1, a rally for higher wages was held by members of Local 721 of the SEIU labor union which included social workers employed at the Los Angeles, CA Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
At the beginning of the video referenced in the first link above, a union member is seen wearing a purple shirt with “SEIU Obama” on it. Union members appeared to be wearing purple or orange shirts.
The union members are asking for wage increases, claiming that they made “recession-era sacrifices” by going without pay raises for the last four years. Their last contract expired on September 30.
Union members held signs saying, “Fair share from corporations,” “Fair Deal,” and “Fair Pay for Workers.”
Several people attended the rally to protest DCFS social workers’ demands for higher wages and additional hires because of what they perceive as the agency’s poor record on keeping children safe from abuse and neglect. Following the death of an eight-year-old boy whose case was known to DCFS, the agency launched an investigation and prepared to fire four employees for failure to act to protect the child, who was allegedly killed by his mother’s boyfriend.
At least two of the counter-protesters carried signs decrying that “570 children” had died as a result of DCFS’s negligence.
Earlier this year, The Los Angeles Times agreed that more social workers were needed to prevent the deaths of children at risk, even though it cited “casework errors” and “poorly qualified supervisors” as contributing factors in the recent deaths of 13 children documented in an 82-page report.
DCFS employs nearly 7,000 people.
The Los Angeles Times reported that negotiations were to take place last Thursday to include a proposed raise of 6%. One of the members of the Board of County Supervisors expressed a desire to continue the “labor peace” which he said had prevailed for an unspecified amount of time.
During the rally, several people who protested the raises demanded by the union members were injured after union members “assaulted” them. The counter-protesters also said that their First Amendment right to freedom of speech was violated.
Two of the counter-protesters contacted The Post & Email about what transpired.
One had held a sign protesting the higher wages which was taken from her and destroyed by a union member. She then held up a sign which said, “How many children have to DIE?” Apparent DCFS social workers held signs which read “Fight for Child Safety” and “Reduce Caseloads NOW.”
The Los Angeles Times reported the incident:
The event, however, ended in some chaos. Two women, not county workers, who were protesting social workers potentially getting raises in light of abuse and deaths of children under county supervision held large signs in front of the podium. SEIU members tried to take their signs, while other members tried to stop them. A tussle ensued, and an SEIU supporter was either pushed or fell to the ground. Paramedics were called, placed a brace around her neck and took her by ambulance to a hospital. Sheriff’s deputies questioned at least one of the protesters.
One of those at counter-protesting the union members said on a Facebook page:
LA County DCFS denies families their constitutional and civil rights.Noun 1. freedom of assembly – the right to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances; guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution civil right – right or rights belonging to a person by reason of citizenship including especially the fundamental freedoms and privileges guaranteed by the 13th and 14th amendments and subsequent acts of Congress including the right to legal and social and economic equality law.
Are families being denied of their civil and constitutional rights behind closed doors too? YOU BET!!
On Saturday evening, the same protester told The Post & Email:
Through a confidential report that was leaked out in February, we learned that 570 children have died in Los Angeles County in the last two years. There are as many as five more children that we know about.
I’m a mom-turned-advocate. I have a son who was removed from me under false pretenses of neglect when he was 15 months old. He’s five now. I have my story on a blog. I provide a lot of information there, and if you read it for a bit, you will understand why I do what I do. It’s called Motherhood Under Attack.
I have many things in common with the Hendersons: I advocate breast-feeding, a holistic approach to medicine, and organic foods. I am very aware of the system and what it does to people.
I took it upon myself to find out whether it was just a systematic failure or if it was intentional. I came to find out that it’s a mix. There are so many issues going on, from financial incentives to conflict of interest to toxic culture, which you saw on the video…and that’s with them knowing that people are watching them. Imagine what they do when people are not watching.
I am stunned that the Department of Children and Family Services has a workforce that, whether on the job or stepping out of the job, their behavior as individuals seems to be the same as they have when they encounter families. That is hostile, intimidating, and as if they have to silence anyone who disagrees with them.
I pity the families who don’t have a voice, and I feel that I need to be a voice for those families, for those children, who are unable to speak themselves.
I’m very passionate about this. They are entrusted with protecting children, yet they feel that it’s not their fault, that their caseloads are too high…and I feel as if, “Who do they have to blame for their caseloads being so high?” If you look at one of the videos – I believe it’s #6 – there’s a lady that I encountering in the middle of the street, and she’s telling me, “My caseloads are too high, and I said, “Maybe if you stop meddling with families, maybe, just maybe, your caseloads will decrease.” There is evidence that at least 40% of children in foster care do not need to be there.
I probably will never get my son back. They’ve destroyed my life. I will never get back the last four years that I’ve missed with my child. What they have done to me not only as a mom, but also as an individual…
This is what happens to families. It is why a lot of parents give up. Emotionally and physically, it’s taxing.
The Post & Email asked the counter-protester what happened to cause the altercation and injuries on both sides, to which she responded:
They were so upset about the sign that they wanted to push us off the stage. In coming to do so, one of them – and it was very unfortunate, because I believe that one of them was between 60 and 70 years old – was coming to get me…everybody wanted to come and get me…We believe that either she fell or she was pushed by someone from SEIU. We have reviewed the video, and there is no sign of any of us touching the lady. She landed on her head, and she went to the hospital. From what I understand, she is out of the hospital now. I believe they are trying to press charges against us for assaulting her rather than the other way around. Some people have told me that the reports are that we were trying to throw the lady down the stairs, but we did not lay a hand on her. I was too busy fighting the other people.
It’s an unfortunate event all around. I am glad that the lady is doing better. I am hoping that more and more people from the outside will shed light on what happened and see how families are treated. Can you imagine a video where 100 people say at once that we threw her down?
I have a right to stand in a public place that I pay taxes for, and it’s simply unacceptable.
We were a total of four; I know there were two gentlemen somewhere else within the crowd. We four were all assaulted.
We went up the stairs to bring about a little attention to our signs. We never touched anybody; we very nicely and respectfully made out way around. One of us had gone up the steps, and she was told, “Get down, get down,” but she kept going up. Once she got to maybe the sixth step, and you can see it on the video, they began to come forward and put themselves right next to us. It’s hard to see in the video, though there are some parts where you can see it – they’re pushing us with their bellies but the sign is covering them. So they are pushing us to push us off the stairs. What we’re doing is moving in place to not be thrown down, and at some point, someone grabbed my arm, and one of the other people said, “Leave her alone.” That’s when everything started. I decided to get off the steps because I don’t want anybody throwing me down…
So I got down and they continued to do what they were doing, but then there were several of them who focused on me. I was hit with their signs several times, and that’s when you see that gentleman takes the sign away from me.
It’s very obvious that they were trying to cover our signs. If you look at the video, right before the lady fell, you can see one of the men trying to stop one of the other women from continuing to show her sign.
It’s a sad situation all around, for sure.
The Post & Email asked the protester if she needed to seek medical treatment afterward, to which she replied:
I had body pains for two days. I have a disability where I tremor, which is aggravated with stress. So I tend to have an episode where I can’t stop shaking. I’ve tried to stay back so that I can normalize. My blood pressure dropped, and then I went to my chiropractor for the body pains. I know that the two other women who were hit – the people with the signs mostly were men – were complaining of pain in their shoulders, which is totally understandable given the whole situation. They were hit and pushed, and they had body pain afterward also.
This is our First Amendment right. If we lose that, all of us are in trouble. For us, that was our First Amendment right that was violated. They think that was OK, and it’s not OK.
A second eyewitness to the protest said:
DCFS in this area is saying that their caseload is too high. The average mother and father in the community don’t understand that the DCFS workers are artificially making their caseloads very high by being disingenuous on the court reports, which they don’t have to swear to under penalty of perjury. So if they leave a detail out or add a detail that they can say s their opinion, then the judge is automatically bound to hold the child over as a part of the social worker’s caseload. The social workers, which are part of a union, have the ability to artificially swell their caseloads. What they’re demanding is that more case workers be hired, which of course is the intention of the union. In order to increase their union strength, they want more hired. They also want a pay raise, but in this county, five or six years ago, in order to be a social worker, you had to have a master’s degree. Well, the governor signed into law that you need now is a bachelor’s degree. So you have people who are not being honest with the reasons why their caseload is so high. They’re protesting, saying that they’re going to walk out, and they did walk out. They don’t have a contract, and they’re basically holding the children hostage by saying that children need safety and you need to give us more money in order to keep your kids safe.
XXXXXX and five other parents, including me, protested. In a sea of thousands, it was just us and our signs. We were separated from XXXXXX. Her group was attacked and hit in the head with signs, and one of the ladies went to the hospital.
The Child Protective Services industry is trying to franchise the model that we have here in L.A. out to other states. It’s a money-making machine. In Los Angeles County, they’ve figured out how to bilk not millions, but billions of dollars from the federal government under the disguise of the “best interests of the child.” This county has seminars, and people from all around the U.S. come to the seminars to learn how to do it.
XXXXX and the others went into the belly of the DCFS workers who advocated getting the new hires and higher pay. She went into the belly of the beast, which got national coverage, and it went around the world that DCFS sent mothers to the hospital with their picket signs.
They shut down the city on October 1; they blockaded everywhere around a three-block radius of the courthouse. It was mayhem.
A counter-protester told an interviewer that DCFS has “taken children away” from military members serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For more than a year, The Post & Email has covered the story of the Henderson family, which was separated by DCFS in May 2011 despite no signs of abuse or neglect. The six elder children were divided into several foster homes, and a subsequent infant born in July 2012 was seized from his mother at the age of five weeks without proper documentation.
DCFS Public Affairs Director Armand Montiel has told The Post & Email that DCFS seeks “the most positive outcome for the child.”
Sharon Rondeau has operated The Post & Email since April 2010, focusing on the Obama birth certificate investigation and other government corruption news. She has reported prolifically on constitutional violations within Tennessee’s prison and judicial systems.