- FB Initiative
- Coast Hospital
- We're Wonderful
- Pot Water
- Greedy Whites
- Wine Wars
- Laytonville Bust
- Yesterday's Catch
- Swing Dammit
- Albion Bridge
- Sustainable Discoveries
- Bristol Bay
- Elephant Killer
- Marmon's Experience
- Teen Leadership
CONCERNED CITIZENS OF FORT BRAGG has filed papers seeking dismissal of their lawsuit concerning the City of Fort Bragg’s $1.2 million loan allowing the Mendocino Coast Hospitality House to set up client services in the Old Coast Hotel. The group’s attorney, Rod Jones, said it is unlikely Judge Richard Henderson will shift his position from that taken on his ruling about their request for a preliminary injunction. The group plans to start a new petition drive to place a measure prohibiting social service agencies in Fort Bragg’s Central Business District before city voters in a special election later this year, and is asking the city council to consider the measure as well. The council is scheduled to discuss the matter at its September 14 meeting. CCFB attorney Rod Jones filed a dismissal request in superior court last week and said the effort to proceed by ballot will become the group’s focus. “Members of CCFB have submitted a second Notice of Intention and request for Ballot Title and Summary from the City of Fort Bragg so that they can begin collecting signatures a second time to qualify a zoning amendment for a special election,” he said, “and that’s where the emphasis must now be placed.” CCFB plans on starting a second signature drive after a petition to place the initiative on the ballot fell one signature short when the county registrar disqualified 83 of 395 signatures gathered during the previous effort. According to a CCFB press release, the group “simply wants the people who live in Fort Bragg to be allowed to vote on this issue. CCFB anticipates a special election in December and noted that both the City and MCHC were aware of the initiative drive long before they chose to fund the project and allow occupancy of the building. “They acted at their peril,” said initiative proponent Carolyn Peterson.
A READER WRITES: The AVA covers the issues regarding the Coast Hospital frequently, not so much coverage of the Adventist Hospital in Ukiah. [Ed note: Coast Hospital is a public hospital with an elected board, subject to the Brown Act and the Public Records Act; Adventist and all the other private hospital chains are not…] Recently the AVA prominently featured the single physician whose contract was not renewed at the Coast Hospital. I don't know who wrote that article. But that reporter may be interested in knowing that the same thing is going to be happening in Ukiah, but on a bigger scale, probably involving 20 physicians. Basically this has been an issue all across the country with the disappearance of small private and group practices, as hospitals turn up the pressure forcing doctors into employee/employer relationships. Suffice it to say the contracts generally favor hospital interests to the detriment of the physicians. Because Mendocino has been a small area this has not happened so much here, for example, there are probably more solo and small group practices in Mendocino County than there are in San Francisco. In San Francisco there is no shortage of physicians. If an individual doesn't want to work for Sutter or Kaiser or another big group, he can always be replaced by someone coming out of residency who wants to live in San Francisco. But, despite its beauty, it is very hard to recruit young doctors to this area. If things go as badly as I think they will, Ukiah will lose 8–10 adult primary providers, a similar number of pediatric providers, as well as general surgeons and ophthalmologists. The Adventist Health system is far from being an open organization, all top tier executives must be of the Adventist faith , and control of the two local hospitals (Ukiah and Willits) resides largely with their corporate offices in Roseville. There has been an uneasy relationship here: on the one hand Adventist is the largest employer in Ukiah, on the other hand it is far from being a community oriented hospital. I foresee a train wreck, with the loss to our community of many doctors who have been here for decades. This would largely affect primary care for the underserved, namely adult Medi-Cal patients & pediatric patients. So maybe your colleague would like to look out for this — I anticipate this playing out in the spring of next year."
* * *
ALL OF THE ABOVE adds up to an absolute imperative for Coast residents to demand competent management at Coast Hospital, one of the last community-owned hospitals in the state. If Coast Hospital goes broke and is scooped up by Adventist, a for-profit medical chain whose profits support its church, Coast residents will see a big increase in the costs of their care.
WHICH REMINDS ME to update my standing order with Boonville's emergency responders: Whatever my medical emergency, or the severity of my gunshot wounds, or my state of consciousness, I am to be hauled to Coast Hospital, Fort Bragg; not to the Adventist complex in Ukiah.
DEAR MR. NEGATIVE…
In the July 29, 2015 “Off the Record” section of the Anderson Valley Advertiser (AVA), Mr. Anderson submitted his concerns regarding care and placement of children and youth in the foster care system. We appreciate his opinion on the matter, as well as the opinions of others who have weighed in on a topic that hits so close to home here in Mendocino County. In light of other recent events, we would like to clarify the system in place and highlight some changes that have occurred in the past 20 years. The truth is, there is good work being done - families being strengthened and children being given the opportunity and support to grow beyond their trauma to become the foundation for our county’s future community.
On behalf of the children, youth, and families within the foster care system and the different organizations providing service and support, Redwood Community Services would like to offer the following clarity of current practices as a point of consideration to Mr. Anderson’s dated personal opinion.
When it comes to placement, it is the placing county which determines the appropriate level of care. A collaborative conversation ensues, which includes many public and private partners (e.g. the youth’s attorney, Mendocino County Probation, Mendocino County Office of Education, Family and Child Services, Redwood Community Services, Tapestry Family Services, Redwood Quality Management Company, CASA, etc.) all focused on providing the youth and family with the appropriate level of support and care - be it mental health, medical, housing, substance abuse, or legal. The county social worker determines the placement. There are many levels of placement available in Mendocino County - models of care emphasized on the reduction to dependency on a formal system and a goal of permanency for these children within their communities.
Once appropriate placement is determined, the following RCS placement options are available: Treatment Foster Care (TFC); Intensive Treatment Foster Care (ITFC) Levels 1, 2 and 3; Treatment Foster Care Oregon (TFCO); Transitional Housing Placement Program (THPP); Transitional Housing Placement Plus (THP+); and, Regional Center Foster Care. Mendocino County Children’s Center (MCCC) is an emergency assessment center designed to identify significant behaviors in children and youth. MCCC partners with Mendocino County and provides the ability to obtain a complete assessment of the youth; which is crucial in ensuring that the county is able to best match appropriate services to the individual needs of the youth. The goal is not to merely house children and provide a roof. The goal is to create as normalized a family environment as possible while working with the county (or State Adoptions) to find the best permanency option for each child in care. RCS has had approximately 200 adoptions and seen over 1,000 children and youth to reunification in the past ten years.
Mental health services provided are individualized and targeted towards stabilizing the youth and maintaining functioning. Often times when youth are placed, the need for psychiatric medication decreases. Working in partnership with Child and Family Services (CFS) and licensed psychiatrists (seen in the community through private practice or Federally Qualified Health Clinics), youth are supported through the transition and reduction in medication regimens. Redwood Community Services does not provide medication management or prescription services to youth in Mendocino County. Any changes in prescription psychotropic medication go through a strict court order process- which is only initiated after the interagency treatment team has identified barrier behaviors for which medication may reduce the intensity of symptoms or improve their internal coping.
Recently, a Redwood Community Services foster home had a young child (under 8 years old), for whom the psychiatrist had recommended a medication to assist with managing the symptoms of their ADHD. The child’s attorney, as well as the social worker, requested that RCS arrange a second opinion with another child psychiatrist in order to ensure the reliability of the diagnosis and treatment protocol. The foster parent and a school representative were also involved and completed forms for the psychiatrist (the Vanderbilt Observation forms). After the psychiatrist’s opinion was one in which medication would be beneficial, the prescribing doctor then had to complete a JV220 to request the use and therapeutic dosage levels of the medication and submit it to the Mendocino County Social Service department as well as the court. Once authorized by the court, the foster parent received and reviewed all possible side effects with the doctor before administering the medication. For the next two weeks, the psychiatrist met with both the foster parent and the child regularly to assess any potential negative side effects, appropriateness of dosage level, and effectiveness of alleviating symptoms.
In this case, the child became more successful in school and was able to focus on academic work and activities. The initial behaviors observed were significantly decreased and a permanency plan with a relative was able to be put into place. Within six months’ time, this youth was happily placed with a family member and continues to have a positive relationship with the former foster parents. The medication dosage continues to reduce as coping mechanisms grow, new skills are learned, and symptoms are ameliorated. Obviously not every outcome is like this one, and there is still room for improvement when it comes to medicating children and youth. As we move forward, it is important to remember the great strides that have been made in this process- over medication remains a wide spread issue, and we are fortunate that laws and procedures have been put into place which allow review of this important decision and mechanisms by which outside monitoring can occur. Currently, 6% of children and youth in Mendocino County Redwood Community Services foster care programs are prescribed psychotropic medication.
In the end, it takes a community. We can all work to improve the children’s system - placing a child always has a lasting effect and is never without its challenges. Redwood Community Services has been, and will be, committed to our Mendocino and Lake County communities; working diligently to implement systems and supports for youth that are responsive to identified needs, allow for youth voice and choice, and work collaboratively between birth, foster, and formal supports.
There have been many improvements in how children are served while in the foster care system, and there will be many more changes to come. Changes in practice, changes in funding structures, and changes in law are all meant to find the safest permanent family for those children who have experienced trauma, abuse, and neglect. Redwood Community Services will continue to be a part of that discussion, and we would like to make it clear to our wonderful AVA readership, as well as our community at large, that the sentiments and perspectives given by Mr. Anderson are simply not accurate.
Camille Schraeder, MA
Redwood Community Services, Inc.
NEW APPROACH TO POT WATER REGULATION
ON LINE COMMENT OF THE DAY
The War on Drugs is a cruel racist policy. Mostly, the War on Drugs provides a legal framework for the violent control of minority communities, but here in Humboldt County, we see another racist aspect to the War on Drugs. Here, the War on Drugs provided a relatively low-risk avenue to affluence for privileged white kids with no particular skills, talent or ambition. Hey, I’m a privileged white college drop-out myself. I certainly understand the attraction, but it’s still racist. It’s still wrong, and it’s still a huge fucking ripoff, but rest assured: That side of the War on Drugs will evaporate too. The marijuana industry will no longer be dominated by white middle-class dilettantes looking for a low-stress way to support their high-consumption lifestyle.
When you think about it, these are the people who make Humboldt County attractive and interesting, at least to me: The artists, performers and musicians, the idealistic art history, English and ancient language majors and the disillusioned scientists and engineers who decided they didn’t want to build weapons systems or devise new, environmentally destructive, products. For people like this, growing pot was a way to finance their art or their writing or their political activism, or their other interesting hobbies, without distracting too much from them. The cannabis industry of the future will have no place for these people.
Instead, the cannabis industry will be dominated by greedy white farmers who know how to grow pot and run a business, but have few, if any, other interests. Greedy white farmers do not attract tourists. If they did, people would flock to Iowa to watch corn grow. Greedy white farmers drain rivers, kill fish and destroy habitat, and they use their political clout to make sure that no one gets in their way. That’s what greedy white farmers do everywhere, and that’s what they intend to do here.
— John Hardin
SONOMA COUNTY RESIDENTS' BATTLE WITH WINERIES — it’s about more than water (LA Times)
MIDWEST POT GANG BUSTED IN LAYTONVILLE
On 08-27-2015 Deputies from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office, working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Officers began investigations into the cultivation of marijuana in several locations off of Registered Guest Road Laytonville. The operation was a two day event in which seven search warrants were served. Seized pursuant to search warrants were over 800 marijuana plants ranging in size from 6 to 15 feet in height. Also seized was a Butane Honey Oil Extraction laboratory as well as indicia of occupancy, under $5,000 cash, scales and packaging materials. CDFW Wildlife Officers located several water diversions including stream bed alterations. Further investigation revealed one of these streams contained juvenile steelhead. CDFW Officers also noted the streams were being "dewatered" as a large portion of the flows were being diverted to marijuana grow sites. Several items such as plastic piping, steel chicken wire fencing, and other trash which are detrimental to wildlife were also located within the riparian zones of the stream and creek beds.
Deputies arrested Jullian McCorkendale, 25, of Missouri, April Carey, 26, of Kansas, Nathaniel Levy, 25, of Oklahoma, and Kaleie Larson, 30, of Nebraska, on charges of cultivation of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sales, and manufacturing a controlled substance. They were transported and booked into the Mendocino County Jail on the listed charges.
CATCH OF THE DAY, August 31, 2015
DENNIS BAILEY, Fort Bragg. Arson of inhabited structure.
GABRIEL BOWES, Covelo. Burglary, ex-felon with firearm, probation revocation.
WILLIAM BRANDT, Gualala. Shoplifting.
MARY CHADBOURNE, Ben Lomond/Ukiah. DUI.
MICHAEL DANCO, Ukiah. Drunk in public.
WILLIAM EVANS, Fort Bragg. Drunk in public, probation revocation. (Frequent flyer.)
LAURIE HAYES, Covelo. Probation revocation.
CHRISTOPHER HAYTER, Little River/Comptche. DUI.
RICHARD HOWLAND III, Ukiah. False ID, unspecified misdemeanor.
ZANE JOHNSON, Fort Bragg. Fugitive from justice.
WILLIAM KING, Fort Bragg. Drunk in public. (Frequent flyer.)
JACOB TROPEA, Willits. Possession of more than an ounce of pot.
MARCELINO ZURITA-PAZ, Ukiah. Drunk in public, probation revocation.
PLAYERS WHO TAKE CALLED THIRD STRIKES SHOULD BE FINED
The video above is from 2012, but it could have been yesterday, as his so-called hitters stood with bats on their shoulders during crucial at-bats late in Saturday’s game.
Unless it's clearly a bad call, Bochy should start fining hitters who do this, like Gregor Blanco (called third strike to end the 8th inning); Ehire Adrianza (called third strike in the 9th inning); and Andre Susac (called third strike in the 9th to end the fucking game!).
Anyone who plays baseball learns in Little League to swing at anything close when he/she has two strikes. Standing with the bat on your shoulder and taking a called third strike is shameful, especially when it's done by major league players.
— Rob Anderson, District5Diary.com
COMMUNITY MEETING TO BE HELD BY DEPARTMENT OF TOXIC SUBSTANCES CONTROL on Sept. 10 at the Albion Elementary School about DTSC's initial investigation of the Albion River bridge. We would like the community to come to the meeting and tell us their concerns about the bridge. Here's the complete details for the meeting:
Topic: Albion River bridge investigation
Date: Sept. 10
Time: 6:30-9:00 p.m.
Location: Albion Elementary School, 30400 Albion Ridge Rd, Albion, CA 95410.
Jorge Moreno, Office of Communications
Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC)
California Environmental Protection Agency
ANDERSON VALLEY LAND TRUST presents the 5th, almost annual, Sustainable Discoveries event on Saturday, September 26, 2015. For inquisitive folks truly interested in sustainable agriculture, this year promises to be another one-of-a-kind experience. Local agriculture is an important component of AVLT’s conservation program and the places we visit are truly treasures of our unique landscape. This year we travel to the Yorkville area where we will: learn about the olives, cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc and syrah at the Old Chatham Ranch; look Cinta Senese Italian pigs right in the eye (almost as if we were in the forests of Tuscany), and learn about the 10-acre heirloom apple orchard restoration at Acorn Ranch; enjoy a farm to table lunch at Ravenridge Cottages, presented by Yorkville Market. Tickets are $100 per person. For more information and to buy tickets visit our website (http://andersonvalleylandtrust.org/event/sustainable-discoveries/), contact us at email@example.com or 707-895-3150.
WRECKING BRISTOL BAY
Dear AVA and readers,
If you have no time to read this letter, go to stoppebble.org!
At the Fort Bragg Post Office someone left letters from the National Resources Defense Council and Robert Redford concerning a plan that would be one of the most damaging in modern history to people, wildlife and the planet: a copper mine at Bristol Bay, Alaska. A letter from Rhee Suh, President of the NRDC says in part: "EPA scientists have concluded that the pebble mine poses significant, even catastrophic risks, to Bristol Bay, along with its legendary salmon runs, spectacular wildlife and its people. 80% of local residents are opposed. Bristol Bay is home to orcas and beluga whales, wild moose and caribou and one of only two populations of freshwater harbor seals in the world."
The pit would be as deep as the Empire State Building is tall and as wide as nine ocean liners placed end to end. The extremely toxic waste would be kept near the site in a known earthquake area. More information can be found at stoppebble.org.
Protest letters should be sent to:
Northern Dynasty Minerals, Re: World's largest open-pit mine at Bristol Bay, Alaska.
Support letters and contributions can be sent to: National Resources Defense Council, 40 West 20th Street, New York, NY 10011
MY LIFE WITH MENDOCINO COUNTY’S FAMILY & CHILDREN SERVICES
by James Marmon
When I was first hired at Mendocino County Child Protective Services in 2007, I was hired as a Social Worker V, the highest social worker classification in the State. I was immediately assigned to what was known then as the “Court Unit.” My job consisted of writing Petitions, Detention Summaries, Jurisdictional Reports, and Dispositional Reports. While preparing these reports I started noticing cases where warrants were not being used and that children were sometimes being detained from their families unnecessarily or illegally. I also noticed that some of the social workers who were detaining the children did not meet the state’s educational requirements to be conducting Emergency Response (ER) investigations in the first place. Additionally, I noticed that many of the ER Supervisors also did not meet the state’s staffing requirement that they possess a Master’s Degree in order to supervise ER.
Some of the cases I was getting from ER could be pretty bizarre. At first I could go to my supervisor Jena Connor and talk to her about dismissing some of the cases and returning the children to their parents under volunteer supervision and avoid filing a petition and starting the court process. It was my job to protect the children of Mendocino County, but it was also my job to protect Mendocino County CPS as well. Unfortunately, it didn’t take me long to get a reputation among the Emergency Response Unit as a hard ass and that I sometimes made ER social workers look bad by criticizing their detentions. Many of them took offense at me for not moving forward with their cases, but I explained to them that I was the one who had to sign. It was apparent to me at that time that the Agency was using unqualified staff and that they were making mistakes out in the field.
In preparing Dispositional Hearing Reports, I was required to conduct social studies and prepare case plans and make recommendations to the court. For about the first 2 years, I did so without much disagreement from anyone, not even my supervisor Jena Connor. I was required to meet weekly, every Tuesday, in what is known as “Case Conferencing.” At these case conferences there were people who were not CPS social workers, they were mostly therapists, substance abuse counselors, mental health clinicians, and social worker aides who worked with the families in various classes and groups. The meeting was always led by a program manager. As a Master level social worker, I have always embraced team decision-making in certain situations, but I was not a fan of team decision-making when it was in conflict with my legally mandated responsibility to keep a child safe. By law the case was “assigned” to me and I had sole responsibility. I could not delegate that responsibility to anyone else.
Now don’t get me wrong; I often gleaned important information in these meetings and found them extremely valuable, and often the team decision matched that of my own, so only on rare occasions was there a difference of opinion. Where things didn’t go so well was when I disagreed with the team consensus or if someone in the team disagreed with me. This would sometimes leave a bad feeling among some of the members towards me because I always drew the line. However, most of my problems were not with the professionals who attended the meetings — they understood my position and they didn't try to tell me how to do my job, nor would I try to tell them how to do theirs. We shared information among ourselves as professionals. I do not recall ever having any disagreement with any of the professionals except once, and I immediately requested a meeting between that professional and both our supervisors in an effort to resolve the issue. Most of my problems were with the Social Worker Aides.
When I first arrived at Mendocino County CPS, the Social Worker Aides, also known as SWA’s, just about ran the whole Agency. The Agency had dozens and dozens of them. They conducted, and still do, all the classes and groups that parents are required to attend. They have a tremendous amount of influence on whether or not parents succeeded in having their children returned. They have the most contact with the clients and so social workers basically are basically left with performing administrative duties and writing reports based on nothing more than the SWA’s notes and input. Some other Social Workers and I who were working in the Court Unit at that time took exception to the power and influence they had on cases. We believed qualified social workers should be acting in some of those roles, not assistants. We saw that the SWA’s were often susceptible to forming biases against certain clients and would act upon those biases when giving the social worker updates for their court reports or dealing with the clients themselves.
This brings me to when things really started getting twisted for me. It was in the same case that I mentioned above, where there was an incident with one of the substance abuse professionals. Because of my evaluations — “exceeds average performance rating” — at that time, I was usually assigned to handle “sensitive cases” which usually involved another HHSA employee. The case the substance abuse counselor had a problem with me on happened to be a sensitive case and I did not feel comfortable with dealing with all the specifics of the case in an open meeting due to its sensitive nature and the people involved.
The sensitive case I was assigned to involved one of the Agency’s top management employee’s nieces. That employee also oversaw the SWA core, the same core of paraprofessionals who often perceived me as being sarcastic and made fun of me and other master level Social Workers as only being “book taught” and not having a clear understanding of what it takes to be a “real CPS worker.” We were seen as not being tough enough to do the job. We were perceived as softies who were always trying to figure out ways to keep children safely in their homes and not concentrating on the business of getting as many children we could in foster care and adopted out. To them that’s what a real CPS worker does. Just ask anyone there what their job is, and they will tell you that it is “to find children better homes.” That is a misperception of Mendocino County’s Child Protective Service’s primary purpose, which in reality, is mandated by law to provide a family with any and all services that would allow a child or children to remain safely in their homes and avoid removal. We were not a foster care or adoption agency, even though that could be argued, especially with the influence Redwood Children’s Services had and still has on the Agency and how it operates.
Anyway, back to the case; it was a mess from the beginning. Surprisingly, another social worker had written and signed the Petition and Detention Summary before the case was handed over to me, which was not customary. Usually, the social worker who started court proceedings against a family kept the case all the way through the Dispositional phase. I did not attend the Detention Hearing so I had to rely on the court minutes to guide me to the next step. According to the minutes from the detention hearing the child was not ordered removed from the parents, but the judge ordered the father to leave his residence and stay away from his girlfriend and his young child until the jurisdictional hearing set for several weeks later.
This immediately became a big problem for both the father and his girlfriend; he was mentally ill and he and his family survived on his Social Security checks, affordable housing through his HUD Voucher, and County TAMF. The judge had basically forced him out of his own home based on a social worker’s allegations. He had no money and nowhere to go. After the Detention hearing, he immediately left the courthouse and came to my office in desperation and fear. Someone had told him in Court that I would be handling his case going forward so that is why he immediately came to me. Being handed the case literary just minutes earlier I had not had time to fully digest what had transpired in his case up to that point. I explained to him that I needed at least a day to catch up. I couldn’t help him with his homeless issue because he didn’t have a child in his care; if he had a child I could have placed him in a motel for a couple of weeks. I recommended that he go to the homeless shelter, but at that time the homeless shelter was closed for the summer. He became a member of Mendocino County’s homeless population of the mentally ill.
In preparing the Jurisdictional Report, I discovered that the facts of the case did not support the allegations made in the custody petition. I immediately went to my supervisor and informed her of our problem. A short time later, I was called into a meeting with the Deputy Director, Becky Wilson. I was informed by the Deputy Director that the mother of the child in this case was her best friend’s niece and that the Deputy Director Wilson herself was considered like an aunt to the young lady as well. She informed me that she knew things about this man that no one else knew. She stated that her friend’s family had been trying to get this young lady away from this guy ever since they got together in high school, and that this was their chance to get it done. She also made an issue about the couple’s Goth like lifestyle and their interest and involvement in the Wicca religion.
About that time, I started becoming extremely nervous about this case. Not only was my Deputy Director getting involved in the sensitive case which included her as a family member, but I was being pressured to join in with her personal bias against this young man based on his attire, religious beliefs, and her general dislike for the man. My first thought was that I should be extremely careful not to violate this man’s civil rights and base any of my findings on his religious choices and get myself in real trouble.
She informed me that she wanted me to a make this case stick against this guy and keep him away from his family long enough to convince his girlfriend to move on without him. I immediately saw the red flags shoot up everywhere and I quickly knew that I had just entered into a big nightmare. I wanted out of the case immediately but the Deputy Director declined to grant my request. This is the first time I was told about the Agency’s unwritten paradigm shift from the “Social Worker Recommends” to the “Agency Recommends,” and that I absolutely had no opinion as to the matter and that all my opinions and recommendations were considered overridden by the Agency. I was forced to manipulate the facts around in this case in order to get court jurisdiction of the child because of the man's mental health diagnosis. It was one of the weakest cases I have been involved in. There were never any real WIC Section 300 issues in this case at all. I was sickened by what I had done; I’d never done anything like that before in my entire career, and I immediately swore that I would never do it again.
My next steps were to conduct a social study, write the Dispositional Report, prepare a case plan, and make recommendations to the Court, just in that order. In preparation of the case plan, there was a meeting with all the attorneys involved in the case and myself and supervisor. We agreed on which services were going to be recommended for this man. Based on the sensitive nature of the case, I was not at liberty to discuss how my Deputy Director and her friend who supervised the SWAs were connected to the case. None of the attorneys were aware of any of that information. This case stunk to high heaven, and I was right in the middle of it.
Usually, only the social worker determined which services to provide in a client’s case plan by using the Structured Decision-Making “out of home” assessment tool. I was trained on the tool not to overwhelm a client with too many services and sabotage their chances to reunify with their child or children. In this very unusual team meeting with the attorneys we all agreed to just 4 services that the young man would be required to complete. The services were mental health, parenting, and for him to find appropriate housing and to follow the visitation plan. The court approved it and ordered Reunification Services.
Before I could get out of the case and transfer it on to the next unit, I received an email from a totally uninvolved social worker who had requested an emergency meeting regarding this case and the client’s case plan. I likened the meeting to that of a lynch mob; they were going to give me a piece of their mind. There were several angry Social Worker Aides, an angry social worker, and one pissed off substance abuse counselor. Evidently, prior to the meeting they had all met (at least by telephone or email) and discussed the case among themselves. They demanded answers as too why this guy was getting off so easy and not required to do the full array of services the County had available. The substance abuse counselor angrily questioned me about why I hadn’t referred the client to her for a Drug Court evaluation. I explained to them that there had been a special meeting with all the attorneys, including county counsel, and that the plan was what it was, and that I could not and would not change it. I also explained to the substance abuse counselor that I did not automatically send all my clients to her to be assessed for Drug Court. I told her that unless there was a substance abuse allegation in the case, or I discovered during my investigation and social study that there were substance abuse indicators, I did not automatically refer clients to her to be assessed for placement in her extremely intensive drug court program. I informed her that it would be a waste of valuable resources.
I immediately determined that this poor guy was not going to do well on his reunification plan; it was obvious that the SWA’s knew about his relationship to their supervisor and that they were acting accordingly. I couldn’t even tell his attorney that the deputy director who had a personal relationship and bias against this guy was behind the scene calling all the shots. Unfortunately for the Agency, his attorney knew that there was something wrong from day one, and that was why he called the special meeting for his client. Under normal circumstances I should have been left alone on the case and let the facts determine the course of the case, instead of the other way around. It was clear to me that this man was never going to regain custody of his child. As soon as I transferred off the case, I immediately sent an email to Deputy Director Wilson expressing my disgust about what had taken place and my concern that the client’s efforts were going to be sabotaged by the Agency.
A few days later, June 16, 2010, I received a memo from Deputy Director Wilson defending the participants in the meeting and their right to call the meeting to question me. She also addresses for the first time in writing this notion that social workers did not draw the bottom line in their cases, even though their signatures were required to sign off on them.
The Department recommends was established years ago (at least 8 or 10) as an effort to support and protect social workers through the court process. We find that often our court cases can be contentious and sometimes individual social workers are not confident with the direction a case may proceed. In particularly difficult cases’ following a case conference a supervisor, manager or county counsel can see the need for a case to move in a direction contrary to the views of the social worker. In other cases everyone may agree but understand that the social worker needs support for his/her position through the court process. for these reasons we began using the phrase "the Department recommends” etc. etc. rather than "this social worker recommends'" In particularly heated cases this gave the social worker the opportunity to discuss the team decision which was made; or the supervisor, manager or deputy the responsibility to provide the bottom line explanation to the court and protected the social worker from being torn apart on the witness stand in front of their client'
I immediately requested to see the written policy regarding this issue. There was none. In Del Norte County where I worked 5 years before I came to Mendocino County, I was always responsible for the bottom line. Now, this didn’t automatically give me free will to go crazy on any of my cases. My decisions and recommendations had to be supported by evidence and sound reasoning. If they weren’t sound, I duly expected to be torn apart on the witness stand in front of my clients when we got into court. Believe me, you don’t want a judge reprimanding you for unsound reasoning from the bench. Not only could poor reasoning hurt your credibility in court, it could get you in trouble with your agency if you were too estranged from logical thinking.
In Del Norte County, the program managers and the deputy director very rarely involved themselves in individual cases. The everyday handling of cases were left up to the social worker and their supervisors. A rare exception would be if you had a case where the child had extreme behavioral and/or medical issues and required a specialized treatment facility costing the County hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. They totally got involved in cases like this, but the bottom line was still the social worker’s responsibility. I remember one case in particular where I recommended a less expensive specialized care facility for a client and the judge questioned me if I really believed the client was ready to be stepped down, or was it just the Agency trying to save money. I informed him that it was my recommendation as well. After the lawyers were done, he ruled against my recommendation and the child remained where she was. You win some and you lose some.
It should be noted here, that on reports that required both the social worker and social worker supervisor signatures the two would meet until there was consensus between the them. Unlike Mendocino County, my supervisors in Del Norte were more qualified and experienced than I was. They had the capacity to talk real social work language and explain a different view to me; our sessions became learning events. Not once did I ever leave a meeting with my supervisor where I was told to change my recommendations. I'd be sent back to my desk to think about it, but never was there a demand from the top to change my assessments. It just didn’t happen that way in Del Norte County.
Now, it wouldn’t be fair not to tell you about one particular case in Del Norte where I disagreed with a program manager over some recommendations being made to the court. He directed my supervisor to change my recommendations and present it to the court without my signature. My supervisor followed his directive and made the changes and signed it with his name only. Unfortunately for me, the CWS/CMS computer system automatically populates the names of the social workers assigned to cases on the front page of “all court reports” in the top left hand corner. Your classification was also placed there, right after your name. The first thing a judge would do is look at that front page and determine which social worker he was dealing with and what his or her qualifications were. Mendocino County never identifies a social worker’s classification on any of their documents; everyone is just “social workers.” Is, IIs, IIIs, IVs, or Vs, everyone is the same.
Anyway, when the Del Norte judge called the case, he immediately went into a tirade. He didn’t even wait to call me to the stand. He singled me out in the audience and told me he had already read the report and had never seen anything like it. He said that the recommendation completely ignored the facts and that he would not even entertain the idea of making such an order. He said that he expected more out of me, and couldn’t understand how I ever thought I could pass such an “asinine” recommendation by him. He told me to take my report back to my office and return a week later with an appropriate recommendation based solely on the facts of the case. I don’t know if he ever looked on the last page to notice that I never signed it, but I returned the next week with my original report and recommendations, and my signature in bright blue ink. The judge just gave me a dirty look and moved forward with my more appropriate recommendations. He was still mad at me.
Now, let’s go back to Deputy Director Becky Wilson and the fact that she couldn’t provide me with any written Policy or Procedure to support her memo. Everywhere I had worked in the past 20 years there was always a policy manual pertaining to a specific unit and procedures needed to perform their jobs appropriately. I had asked to see one when I first started the job in Mendocino, but was told that there was none. I did some research and lo and behold, I did find an old policy and procedure manual on a shelf behind my work station. Inside it I found exactly what I was looking for, I found Mendocino County Department of Social Services' Policy and Procedure #06-02 "Responsibilities, Authorities, and Decision-Making.” This particular policy and procedure documented everything from top to bottom, from the Board of Supervisors pursuant Welfare and Institutions Code 272, right down to the duties of the Social Worker pursuant Welfare and Institutions Code 306.
It was completely contrary to what Ms. Wilson had been telling me. The intent of the policy was to “clarify and standardize decision-making throughout the Department and align authority for decision-making at “lowest level possible”, whenever it can be legally and appropriately moved to the lowest level." It stated that the social worker was responsible to initiate, recommend, and authorize all case decisions. It was the way I was taught and how I’d been doing my job for nearly 8 years. As long as the agency was hiring qualified and trained staff, there was little liability should a civil lawsuit be brought against the County. If a social worker messed up, it was on him or her. The County was exempt from any wrong doing, as long as the Director of Social Services was meeting his job requirements pursuant California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 10803 and California Government Code Section 19801, the county is home free.
Welfare and Institutions code Section 10803
The county director shall:
(a) Serve as the executive and administrative officer of the county department. The county director may delegate his powers and functions to any member of his staff.
(b) Establish such administrative units as he may deem necessary or desirable for the proper and efficient administration of the county department, and employ such personnel as may be authorized subject to merit system regulations and the state standards established pursuant to Section 19801 of the Government Code.
(c) Perform such other duties as may be prescribed by law, and, except for Section 10801, such other administrative and executive duties pertaining to the public social services as may, by other provisions of law, be imposed upon the board of supervisors.
(d) Perform such other duties as may be prescribed by the board of supervisors.
California Government Code Section 19801
For the purposes of administration of state or federally supported programs under Section 19800, the State Personnel Board shall, by regulation, establish and maintain personnel standards on a merit basis for local agencies (including therein standards of qualifications, competency, education, experience, tenure, and compensation) necessary for proper and efficient administration, and to assure state conformity with applicable federal requirements.
I’m going stop here. The next chapter I will discuss what happened from here on, and how Doug (the midnight rambler) Losak failed to do his job and put this thing to rest. I will give you a hint; I decided to make a formal complaint to Carmel Angelo about what I termed a “paradigm shift.” and the dangers it presented for the County.
James Marmon, MSW.
TEEN LEADERSHIP COUNCIL
District Teens space — Saturday, Oct. 10th, 3-4 PM
Teens are invited to an informational meeting about the Library’s Teen Leadership Council (TLC). Teen leaders can volunteer & apply for credit towards community service hours while building their résumés.
District Teen Leaders will gain valued skills & experience:
Collaborating to design our new teen space
Planning & organizing events
Recommending books & other materials for library purchase
Developing leadership & conflict-resolution skills
Contributing to the Ukiah community by expanding teen resources
Come and find out if this is the group for you! Snacks will be provided.
For more information – please contact Melissa at the Ukiah Library: 467-6434 or firstname.lastname@example.org