Social Work Programs

January 12, 2012

Social Workers And Lawsuits

Filed under: social workers and lawsuits — Tags: — admin @ 4:05 pm

social workers and lawsuits The job of a social worker is never easy. Though rewarding in the sense that helping or improving the life of someone else feels great, the social worker’s job is often under attack – especially in cases involving children. Social workers are required by law to protect and ensure the safety of the children in their care. They are responsible for the child’s wellbeing even once in the hands of a foster parent or guardian.

Social workers are required to thoroughly assess and investigate potential foster or adoptive parents and their homes prior to the transfer of children into their care. Foster and adoptive parents are to also be informed of any special needs the children may have to make sure the parents are capable of providing proper care for them. There are some instances, however, when someone or something slips through the cracks. Sometimes children are abused or killed, or perhaps the foster family household suffers issues of their own as a result of the new family dynamic. When these unfortunate scenarios occur, who’s to blame?


Often the finger of blame is pointed at the social worker who paired the foster family with the child or children in the first place. Some states provide immunity laws which seek to protect social workers from lawsuits that may arise, but not everyone is so fortunate.

In a recent child welfare case in Denver, three siblings with a history of child abuse and incestuous relations with one another filed such a lawsuit against the social workers who handled their case. Because of their alleged “reckless” handling of the situation, the social workers are being denied immunity. Arguments for the defense are that the incestuous siblings should not have been continuously paired together in the same home, should not have been placed with prior foster families who would abuse them further, and should not have later been placed with adoptive parents without the full disclosure of their history. The adoptive parents lost their case against the Department of Social Services in which they claimed the children’s severe emotional issues caused their marriage to end in divorce.

Another case in Denver involving a 7-year-old little boy who died as a result of being starved by his foster parents further brings into question how closely social workers monitor children who are in their care. What makes this case so bad is that a teacher had reportedly notified the state of the suspicion of child abuse prior to the little boy’s death. This was clearly negligence on the part of social services.

Social workers must be more watchful, more aggressive and more thorough in child welfare cases to avoid situations like these. There are predators and perpetrators of child abuse out there, and the resulting emotional and physical damage to children is enduring. So though social workers often get a bad rep when it comes to child welfare and people often think of them as “baby snatchers,” they must be allowed to do their job with all the vigilance, compassion and ferocity it takes to protect the children of the world.

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