Child Welfare Social Workers are Essential Workers, Too

By Maxine Benitez, Lauren Chagoya, Eileen Ching, Velma Raza-Acuna,
and Jessica Varela

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire world in many ways.  Since its beginnings, many individuals have been laid off or have been furloughed, due to businesses shutting down or simply because they are not considered “essential workers” or “frontline workers.” Throughout the pandemic, we have heard conversations in the news about the importance of keeping essential workers and frontline workers safe due to higher risks of COVID-19 exposure.

However, as Master’s of Social Work (MSW) students from California State University, Long Beach, we have seen that social workers are disproportionately represented as frontline and essential workers.  For example, Emergency Response Children Social Workers (CSWs) from LA County’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), have continued to ensure child safety and well-being daily.  CSWs are responding to immediate unannounced home visits without knowing if someone in the home has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or has been exposed.

Although, in the last months, LA County’s Child Protection Hotline has seen over 50% decrease in calls, this does not mean that child abuse has decreased.  The fact that schools have been out for four months has to do with the decrease in mandated calls, that primarily came from school personnel.  This is a concern because now that families are stuck at home, they may be experiencing higher levels of stress, which can lead to child abuse and neglect.  CSWs are essential for our communities, because abused children are a vulnerable population that need CSWs who advocate to keep them in a safe home environment.

During a public announcement on Friday July 24th, California Governor Gavin Newsom said, “for us to be able to be successful in terms of stopping the spread of COVID-19, which we will do, it depends on our ability to keep our essential workers safe.”  Governor Newson also focused on the importance of supplying essential workers with personal protective equipment (PPE).  There is no doubt, that Children Social Workers are essential workers called to meet the needs of children and families.  Therefore, for CSWs to continue doing their job and keep children safe, they need to be healthy and safe too.

If you suspect child abuse, call the Los Angeles County Child Protection hotline 1-800-540-4000 or call or text the Child Help National Child Abuse Hotline  1.800.4.A.CHILD (1.800.422.4453). Professional crisis counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in over 170 languages.

The authors are MSW students at California State University, Long Beach.

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