Recent tragic events in Barre and Berlin, have prompted community wide discussion about the role of social workers who work for the Vermont Department for Children and Families, (DCF). These conversations and tragic events have prompted me to write this letter to my fellow community members.
DCF social workers have a challenging, often heroic and often unappreciated job. They work with families who have experienced trauma, who frequently have few resources to help them and most often lack critical parenting skills to ensure the safety and health of their children.
Brave DCF social workers enter homes and families’ lives not knowing how they will be received. They go out to meet families who much of the time are experiencing toxic stress and they go because there are children there, who are suspected of being abused and or neglected. Sometimes they are well received by parents who welcome the help and services they can bring. But until the door opens and the conversation begins, social workers often have no idea if they themselves will be safe or not.
There are children in our communities today who may need help and protection. DCF social workers meet with overly stressed families because they want every child to have a safe, stable and nurturing family. They go because they are dedicated to children and they can help most families change what they may need to change in order to raise their children well.
Sometimes abuse has been so serious and/or prolonged that children need to be removed to another family member’s home or to a foster home. DCF supervisors, Family Court judges, DCF Central Office consultants, Guardian-Ad-Litems, clinical evaluators, and other professionals weigh in on these difficult decisions, as do parents themselves.
As a community we need to be proud of and grateful to DCF social workers. They are the courageous professionals children and families need when more informal ways of helping have not created safety. I really cannot imagine what would have happened to the thousands of children over the years, served by DCF if we had not had these brave advocates for children.
Please join me in appreciating DCF social workers throughout Vermont. They are to be thanked and celebrated for being Vermont’s champions for children.
This letter is dedicated to the legacy and memory of Lara Sobel, an exemplary DCF social worker, who served children and families from the Barre District Office until her death, August 7, 2015.
Linda E Johnson, Executive Director
Prevent Child Abuse Vermont