The Needless, Unacceptable Suffering and Death of Children

On Friday, December 14 on the front page of the Region Section of our Inquirer was yet another indictment of how the Department of Human Services (DHS) is failing our most vulnerable children. I shook with rage and horror as I once again read about “statewide patterns" of abuse and maltreatment at foster-care facilities.

My first social work job after graduating from Penn with my master's degree in social work was with the Society to Protect Children. Here I learned from a rainbow coalition of committed social workers how to turn an inability to care for one's children and safeguard them around -- to offer hope and direction to those who were repeating and reacting to the kind of care they had received. In 1991 Lynne Abraham began referring carefully selected pro bono cases of first offenders where there were no fatalities for intensive therapy, rather than incarceration — -- By this time the responsibility held by PSPC had been turned over to DHS, and I saw that my colleagues and mentors who went from PSPC to DHS had left, explaining to me that they decided to leave a field they cared deeply about and had trained for arduously because they were "burned the hell out."

This led to 5 years of research into what burnout is and the necessary self-care strategies that can turn it around and prevent it. My papers about the ongoing tragedies -- with approaches -- are in the Archives of the University of Pennsylvania. They span more than 30 years with stories about unnecessary deaths of our children. They include reports and information about reports that are similar to the one reported on December 14, but gather dust.

I wrote yet another Letter to the Editor to the Philadelphia Inquirer: When will city leadership put an end to this?

Here is what I wrote:

To the editor:

I invite readers to visit the Archives of the University of Pennsylvania at 3401 Market Street — #210. In a collection bearing my name is a huge folder of pleas and suggestions written to DHS and other city resources, some printed in this newspaper, spanning over thirty years. There are also articles about many of the dead and severely injured children, who have been under the care of several administrations as well as studies of reports similar to the one highlighted in another tragic article.

Therefore, rather than detailing once again what can and should be done, I suggest another route: Print the salaries and budget of the resources who have failed our city’s most vulnerable children, and demand an accounting of where this money actually goes.