County DCFS workers on strike

Local DCFS social workers joined thousands of social workers across Los Angeles County Thursday in the strike to demand lower caseloads in order to ensure child safety.

Local DCFS social workers joined thousands of children’s social workers across Los Angeles County Thursday in a strike to demand lower caseloads in order to ensure child safety.

LANCASTER – Holding signs calling for “Child Safety NOW,” dozens of local child welfare workers staged a protest outside the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services in Lancaster Thursday. The strike was also taking place at the DCFS office in Palmdale and other areas across the county, the protesters said.

“All the social workers in the 18 DCFS offices are on strike as we speak, and we’re going to keep on striking until we get what we want,” said Chychy Ekeochah, child abuse investigator and union negotiator.

“What triggered this is the county board of supervisors refused to work with us to reach a settlement to reduce our caseload/workload by recruiting more children’s social workers,” Ekeochah said. She said county officials have promised to hire hundreds more social workers to lighten caseloads, but the commitment needs to be put in writing. The strikers are calling for lower case loads as part of their labor contract, Ekeochah said.

“Put it in writing in our contract that you’re going to be hiring 35 children’s social workers every month for 17 months,” Ekeochah said. “They have to put it in writing for accountability, but they don’t want to be held responsible, that’s why they don’t want to put it in writing.”

Children’s social workers should each have under 18 cases, however, some have as many as 40 cases, the protesters said.

Children’s social workers should each have under 18 cases, however, some have as many as 40 cases, the protesters said.

Children’s social workers have been working without a contract since Oct. 1, and negotiations have been ongoing, Ekeochah said. Contract negotiations broke down Wednesday night over caseloads, and the Service Employees International Union Local 721 called for the first county strike in more than a decade.

In order to ensure child safety and to do their jobs properly, children’s social workers should each have under 18 cases, however, some have as many as 40 cases, Ekeochah said.

“We have 40 hours a week, 40 kids… If you do the math, how can they think that we can have a good quality relationship with these children?” said Shawna Henderson-McIntyre, a children’s social worker for Palmdale. “We can’t do it, we don’t have enough hours in the day, in the month, in the week, and I just don’t understand how they can’t see everything we do.”

Henderson-McIntyre said she and many social workers are giving their all, despite limited resources, yet they are often the first ones to be blamed if something goes wrong.

“We want to let these parents know that we’re not their enemy, we’re on their team, that we don’t want to tear their families apart, we want to put them together, and we don’t have enough time to do this,” she said.

The Department of Children and Family Services will have up to 400 administrators providing “front line services” during the strike,  so that the public will be as minimally impacted as possible, County officials said.

The strikers are prepared to go “as long it takes,” Ekeochah said.

“We would like for everybody to call the Board of Supervisors and ask them why they are refusing to help us social workers ensure child safety,” Ekeochah said. ”Ask the Board of Supervisors to please bring down our workload/caseload by hiring more social workers.”

  18 comments for “County DCFS workers on strike

  1. lh
    December 19, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    that’s funny on some of these post someone (must have been a social worker) said “For those of you who think it is an easy job, why don’t you come and try and see if you can do it EFFECTIVELY with the WORKLOAD and CASELOAD.” well quite frankly you knew what you were getting into when you asked for the job. its also fucked up I had a case in 2007 and you stupid social workers put my infant and 3 year old at the time into an abusive Mexican/Chinese woman who had been beating kids and it was reported before my kids got there and you still placed kids in there! non-the-less, my infant endured MASSIVE HEAD TRAUMA in this foster home and was put into the emergency room. yes, they shouldn’t have been taken from me in the first place but its funny this business took her from my home and put her with a foster home who had child abuse reports made by a thirteen year old that was in the home previously! so you guys don’t have time to take for kids ? you put mine in an abusive foster home and cause nothing but problems for my kids and my family and myself! I HATE DCFS ! I despise them in every way possible so good, keep on your strike, and quit your jobs you bastards or do it right.

    • lh
      December 19, 2013 at 5:16 pm

      my bad, my case was in 2006 I typed 2007, but either way, I hate dcfs when they work for the wrong reasons on the wrong families. you all work totally backwards than what you should be. I did have one good social worker, I will not disclose her name, but that’s all and that’s it,

  2. Jerusha McDonald
    December 19, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    DCSF ruined my life as my newborn child was taken away at birth cause they said i tested posative for methaphetamine and later i found out it was probably from the vicks inhaler i was using to breath.My nose was so stuffed i had been using the vicks inhaler you sniff up your nose
    Ephedra, also known as ma huang, is a type of herb whose derivatives are used extensively in over-the-counter medicines. Some of this herb’s chemical derivatives include ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, desoxyephedrine, propylephedrine and phenylephrine. Any medication that includes one of these ingredients could cause a false-positive for a methamphetamine drug test. Common medications with these ingredients are cold medicines and nasal decongestants, such as Sudafed, NyQuil, Vick’s Inhaler and Dimetapp.)
    Needless to say i had someprobablems with my ex boyfriends mom who worked at k9 the local community clicek for people who cant afford it. which is the only place out here which will take you if you have welfare.i ended up never going cause i was embaressed about what my exes mother was saying and when i went into labor they treated me like a criminal. my baby was taking away from me for me being evasive they said i wasnt holding her enough. not to mention i was seening double and i told the nurse and socail worker but they didnt care why they left a infant with someone so intoxicated on drugs blows my mind and then blames me for it. well long story short i never was able to bond with my baby and my boyfriends sister at the time offered to take the child for momentarily which was great but she also lived in ocean side. i ended up giving her up for adoption cause i felt like it would of been to emoitionally hard for my baby to deal with not being able to bond with me.This has dramitically affected me emoitionally and i wish the DCSF people wouldnt jump on leads so dramitcially then maby you wouldnt be so overloaded. I think they ruined my kids life to be with her birth parents as well as my chance to be a mom.

  3. someguy
    December 9, 2013 at 8:39 am

    Instead of striking, why dont they just shut these scam artist down…. their job is to help families yet all they have ever managed to do is destroy families by doing exactly what they said they will do during this strike. they will do what they want until they get what they want.. Close these people down, let the strike be the gateway to their departure!

    • CB
      December 19, 2013 at 12:59 pm

      Amen to that! Someguy has some common sense!

    • lh
      December 19, 2013 at 5:07 pm


  4. Marietta
    December 8, 2013 at 8:42 am

    It is a pity that the public are so misinformed about what the strike is all about!!! Social Workers CANNOT take care of the children and families with the amount of work that they have and this same public and the media are the first to CRITICIZE SOCIAL WORKERS AND ASK FOR THEM TO E CRUCIFIED. We Social Workers are TIRED of being blamed for child fatalities and we are begging for enable us protect the children and families EFFECTIVELY.

    For those of you who think it is an easy job, why don’t you come and try and see if you can do it EFFECTIVELY with the WORKLOAD and CASELOAD.

  5. SMH
    December 7, 2013 at 11:07 pm

    Please support us. Lower caseload does not mean Social Workers want to work less! It means we could provide better services to our families and better ensure the safety of our children!

    THEY NEED TO HIRE MORE SOCIAL WORKERS PERIOD! It has already been assessed that we cannot do our job with a caseload over 17. Why is it so difficult for a board of obviously educated individuals to understand? We currently have caseloads of thirtyfive to forty children and their families to serve with only a 40 hour work week? It’s just not possible!

    I’ve seen and heard some very hurtful and insulting comments regarding Social Workers and the Department. Our goals are never to separate children from their family unless there is a safety risk. When we do have to remove children our goal is then to address and remove the safety risk to reunify the family as quickly as possible. This often takes many resources and time, neither of which are readily available.

    When you consider the time Social Workers spend driving (sometimes hundreds of miles per day) to see their families, answering phone calls, referring to programs, consulting with doctors, dentists, therapists, attending IEP’s, scheduling meeting’s, contacting attorneys, dealing with concerned relatives, arranging visits, getting signatures, faxing, coping, filing documents, requesting and delivering bus passes/clothing allowances, reading new cases, minute orders, eligibility forms, resubmitting lost forms, finding resources for parents to court ordered programs (which are all full), gathering progress reports, arranging live scans, assessing homes, investigating referrals, writing reports and trying to figure out why someone’s Medi-Cal is cancelled…the list goes on and on. It’s crazy to say the least!

    Anyone who knows me can tell you I am not afraid of a challenge or hard work. Any other job I’ve ever worked I was able to rest knowing all I could do was the best I could do. When it comes to the safety and well being of our children however, we have to be able to do all and everything we can and we owe it to them to do it well! How can “they” believe that we can do this with only an hour or so per week for each child? How can “they” not give us the tools we need to do our job and tell us “they” are not going to” just throw more money at the problem” when we ask for more support? This is not just a problem it is a tragedy waiting to happen!

    We are losing good and experienced Social Workers that cost thousands of dollars to train because “they” lose hope that things will get better and quit rather than be responsible for the tragedies that are sure to come. I have heard it equated to being like a game of Russian Roulette in that it doesn’t matter how hard you try, the next full chamber (tragedy) might be yours.

    Please support this strike in any way you can. Honk as you drive by, call those that can make a difference, stop and wave a sign for a few minutes or just send up a little prayer for us and the families we serve.

    I know many of you have made comments reflecting negativity and an obvious misunderstanding of what a social worker is. The main part of our job is to ensure child safety and strengthen families. We do this by following and implementing policy, procedure and laws that we do not create to the best of our ability. While we are not always labeled as the “good guys” or always feel good about what we have to do, I guarantee you that you cannot do this job without being a good person with a huge heart who is willing to give your all.

    It was a difficult choice to go out and strike as it posed a hardship to the families we serve and to our own families at home. In the end though I had no doubt that it had to be done! I could have kept quiet and hoped the voices of those brave enough to speak out would make a difference but the voices of a few just aren’t enough. We all have to stand together and demand they acknowledge that caseloads this high are dangerous or we are failing the children and families we serve.

    I just pray that our message was heard. We are not making a request for lower caseloads for ourselves but to help us better serve and strengthen our families while helping to better ensure the safety of our children.

    PS..I find it crazy that our own President has said that the answer to bettering our economy is to create more jobs. Didn’t he even give out billions of dollars in bail out money to large companies to create jobs?

    Why is it then that they will not “throw money” our way to ensure child safety? By creating more social worker, HSA, Unit Clerk, and EW jobs wouldn’t we be strengthening our economy, lowering unemployment and better protecting and serving families? Why is it more important to save the automotive industry or bail out a bank that had no problem swindling home owners and throwing them on the street?

    PS. There will always be angry people that make comments about things they don’t know and will not listen to reason but to those of you who support and understand that it is the system that needs to change, your comments mean the world to us! Please know that everyone on the strike line goes out of their way to ensure their work is done and their cases are covered!

  6. M Navarrete
    December 7, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    ….I’m incredibly sad that we even need that many more social workers, what in the hell is going on inside of all of these homes. If things have gotten so insanely busy for these workers, and desperately need more help then it’s heart breaking to assume that child abuse and neglect is getting that much worse.

  7. S. James
    December 7, 2013 at 11:35 am

    People sound really ignorant when they say “just get another job”. Most people are not just going to leave a job that they have invested their heart and time. That being said…some workers have left because they just couldn’t take seeing another baby on meth…or it was just that last story that got to him/her…so they retire or go into a similar field with a little less stress….yet most workers stay…what better job than to try and save the lives of children and their family….in the midst of that “load” we carry are success stories…however those stories don’t make the 5’oclock news…..for instance with the help of social workers, foster parents, teachers and in some rare cases even the birth parents etc….175-180 foster youth graduate from high school each year and some go onto college with the help of ILP Services.

    It’s unfortunate that you ran into a few social workers that didn’t leave you with a good impression…sounds like the job got to them…and hardened their heart. That happens in every profession….law enforcement, the medical field, the postal service…you never know what has happened in people’s lives that have left them disgruntled…but I don’t let those few bad apples change my mind about the entire field. It’s not that easy to walk away from the baby with the broken leg, or the 3 year old that sexually abused by her father…or that mother who is set to reunify with her children….it is easier to take a stand and ask the county to do the right thing by the kids they say they want to protect….taking a stand is one more duty but it had to done. This country was built on people taking a stand.

    Even the most “skilled” worker with years of line experience and training has been hit with a case that has kept them up at night…our Bachelor degrees and/or Masters degrees can’t always prepare us for the 14 year old who gave birth to her father’s baby…or the infant with a fracture thigh bone. I’ll leave you with those stories and ask you to pray for everyone involved in those cases and think about implementing your skills in those situations.

    God bless and may you all prosper in the profession that you have chosen.

  8. herewegoagain
    December 7, 2013 at 8:50 am

    What a motley looking crew!! Who’s taking care of whom??
    No wonder they are in such need of help..

  9. Shane Falco
    December 6, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    These jobs attract people with limited skills and they are union jobs. I’ve met my share of social workers in my line of work and most were lazy and were clock watchers.

    If you don’t like the work load, by all means, get a different job. With many job opportunities with LA County, if they actually had skills or ambition, they could lateral into a better job.

  10. S. James
    December 6, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    CB you’re obviously a critic who has never been a social worker…if you have a degree in psychology, sociology and/or child development apply for a social worker position….you’ll have 40 kids…multiply that by 2 parents per child and that equals 80 parents for a grand total of 120 clients….these 120 clients may have 4 problems each which equals 480 problems…which include issues related to mental illness, life threatning illness’, substance abuse, domestic violence and the list goes on and on…come get a caseload CB…it will be your job to solve those 480 problems as these cases move through the system for the next few years….what’s your solution for the mother who has delivered baby number 6 while addicted to meth, and prostitutes…you haven’t been overworked until you have the case of a young girl who gave birth to her father’s child…that’s right she and her father have baby together…that’s just two stories….don’t forget the court reports, case plans, SDM’s, CPA’s, referrals, visits, the hospitalizations, 7 day notices, D rate assessments, F rate assessments, TDM’s, being on call for court, IEP meetings, notices, in-and-out notices for incarcerated parents, court orders, TPR meetings…etc…now communicate with foster parents, attorney’s, teachers, probation/parole officers, therapists, doctors, psychiatrists, FFA workers…trust me you’ll have sleepless nights, high levels of stress and then you’ll know what we mean by the term “overworked”….let us know when you’re hired…because in 6 years (if you last that long) you’ll be holding one of those cute little signs from the union…as that was the last time we had a contract…and more importantly you’ll eat all your critical words!

    • Quigley
      December 7, 2013 at 1:14 pm

      Right on S.James!!

  11. Quigley
    December 6, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    Another example of the people working for the kids who are overworked, understaffed, and definitely not paid enough for what they do. Our kids deserve more!

  12. Julie
    December 6, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    GOOD! I’m glad they’ve finally decided to do something! Look what happened to poor little Gabriel because they didn’t have enough time for him. They take away the kids that don’t need to be taken away and leave the kids who are in desperate need of a better life with monsters. They need to hire more, qualified, caring workers and do their job!

  13. CB
    December 6, 2013 at 8:11 am

    I’m over-worked & under paid too, but I continue to do the best I can for the people I work for.
    What were you doing for the children while you were on strike? I bet you made those cute signs at work too.

    • EAP
      December 6, 2013 at 12:44 pm

      I bet you don’t investigate child abuse though do you? I know some social workers who were on strike and management were the ones who had to step out for any emergency. And about those cute signs, the Union brought them so they were not made at their work.

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