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Honoring unsung heroes: Child welfare professionals

By Shelley Katz

Every hour of every day, a terrified child relies on the wisdom, decisions and dedication of a child welfare professional.  That dedication is often what makes the
difference. 

It may be 2 a.m. when the phone rings ... on the other line is the investigator who just rescued a trio of sisters from a nightmare of sexual abuse. The girls need a safe place to stay – together – immediately. 

Or perhaps it’s 8 p.m. as an exhausted case manager finally walks through her front door to spend a few minutes with her family … and her cell begins vibrating. Another crisis demands her attention.

These calls aren’t out of the ordinary by any means. Those who answer know their days and nights will be unpredictable, that their time is rarely their own.

Individuals who choose a career in child welfare make a conscious decision to put others first. Though they work in a daunting field with incredible challenges, they refuse to give up. They know vulnerable, hurting, frightened children depend on them. 

And so they persevere.

That’s why it’s my honor to recognize and advocate for these individuals each day. On Monday May 11, I ask you to join me in thanking Florida’s unsung heroes as our state commemorates Child Welfare Professionals Recognition Day. 

Even better, consider asking our legislators to show their appreciation for child welfare professionals – and to demonstrate their concern for the victimized children these professionals serve – by prioritizing child welfare, particularly case management, when they reconvene for a special session next month. 

Our state must invest in the child welfare professionals who dedicate their days, nights and weekends to helping victimized children. These individuals are responsible for making life-and-death decisions on a near-daily basis. They’re responsible for helping children and families overcome insurmountable challenges. And they’re responsible for 15, 25, sometimes 30 or 40 children at a time. 

Though these professionals are hard working, committed and determined, their charge is nearly impossible – and we cannot let the special session pass without changing that. 

Investing in our workforce is key to improving outcomes for children in foster care. It’s paramount that Florida’s budget includes a $15.7 million appropriation for child welfare, specifically earmarked for case management activities. Additionally, now is the time for our leaders to demonstrate their commitment to a well-trained workforce by establishing the Child Welfare Title IV-E Stipend Program. 

It’s no longer an option. We must invest in case management to improve outcomes for children. 

Nearly 20,000 are counting us. We can’t let them down.

Shelley Katz is chief operating officer of Children's Home Society of Florida.

Copyright 2015 Children’s Home Society of Florida, All Rights Reserved.