The following article is a satire. It is provocative insofar as it is a real assessment of the duplicity and waste in our Human Service Systems. In no way is this piece meant as a criticism of the amazing work being done by the true heroes of social service agencies across this country with whom I have been honored to work for over twenty years. Rather, it should be seen as a commentary on the lack of support, appreciation and understanding of the valuable contributions being made on behalf of our most vulnerable citizens.
Let’s discuss what we can do to make this system better.
(Un)Funding the Needy
Once upon a time there was a small town called Everywhere, USA.
The leaders and the people of this caring community agreed that it was in the best interest of everyone that they make provisions to care for those less fortunate, ill or otherwise unable to care for themselves.
It was decided that they would hire a social worker who could spend her time linking people in need to services that would help provide for their daily care and essentials.
Many years later it was determined that the Social Worker needed to be supervised and a Clinical Director was hired to continue to ensure that the Social Worker was doing what she had already been doing in the first place.
Naturally, the Clinical Director implemented new forms and “teaching tools” so that the Social Worker could “re-learn” what she already knew in case anyone wanted to question whether she knew it or not.
Naturally, the community needed to be sure that the Social Worker and the Clinical Director were performing their jobs.
A Quality Assurance specialist was brought in to evaluate both of them. The QA asked the Social Worker and the Clinical Director what their roles were, how they accomplished their work and what they needed to make their jobs easier and more efficient. The QA specialist then recommended that an individual be hired to document the performance of the Social Worker and Clinical Director, define their roles and figure out ways to make their performance easier and more efficient.
A “Regional Director” was hired for the job and implemented policy and procedure to be followed which would make the completion of the roles of the social worker, clinical director and QA specialist much easier and more efficient.
The Social Worker and the Clinical Director filed reports to ensure that they were meeting for mandated supervision, adhering to strict guidelines pertaining to travel and fulfilling requirements of face to face contact with persons in need while generating detailed notes for the chart.
The Regional Director was also there to be sure that the Social Worker was meeting with the clients she had already been meeting with in the community according to a plan devised by the Regional Director who had never traveled the region being that she was from a different community altogether.
“Who will we charged with compensating all of these employees?” asked a Town Elder some years later.
A Financial Officer was brought in to oversee expenditures, set a budget, clock time, and track the efficiency of the work being performed. The Financial Officer asked important questions like “who is giving your program the money that we are giving your program?” or “if your 2 employees are working 40 hours per week, how many FTEs do you have?” or “how much less money would you like to have to do more work next year?”
The Social Worker, the Clinical Director, the QA Specialist, the Regional Director and the Financial Officer were interviewed and asked to present reports on their day to day operations including but not limited, to important information like their race, sex, frequency of sex, sexual persuasion, alcohol and drug intake, family history of alcohol and drug intake, family history of sex, family history of sexual persuasion and grade school accomplishments.
Finding the time to fill out these reports, track her time and expenditures for the Financial Officer, adhere to the rigid schedule set by the Regional Director and meet for Supervision with the Clinical Director was seriously impacting the Social Workers ability to continue to meet with the clients she had already been meeting with.
The Town Elders convened a meeting to review and publicly discuss the problem of all of the people in need and exactly what the community should do about it.
They reviewed a seventy five page report and determined that the people in need in the community had the audacity to still “be in need”.
The Financial Officer was told to make broad and sweeping budget cuts after he had completed a study as to the inefficiency of the programs operating to assist people in need.
The books and records kept for these programs were scrutinized and audited by a newly formed Contract Compliance Commission.
The Regional Director was promoted to a very secure position as the Director of Fine Arts, Theater, Chorus and Band. She was assured that those valuable disciplines, so essential to culture and Everywhere, USA would never be cut.
She jumped at the opportunity.
The Clinical Supervisor was told to pick up a caseload of her own and to do the work that she was supposed to be overseeing by the Social Worker who had been doing the work all along.
No one asked the people in the community what they thought.
The Social Worker was laid off.