4-27-12: Keeping Social Workers Safe
Here’s an entry that came across Twitter on Tuesday: “What happened this morning at DSS is every social worker’s worst fear. That a client will freak out & hurt somebody.”
That’s of course in reference to an attack Tuesday morning at a Department of Social Services building in East Baltimore. Police say 29-year-old Kenisha Thomas stabbed her 8-month-old daughter in front of a social worker. The Baltimore Sun’s Peter Hermann reported on Wednesday that the baby is in good condition at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, and that Thomas was charged with attempted first-degree murder and child abuse.
The incident highlights the danger social workers face every day. Today, Sheilah talks about those dangers with Nancy Dickinson—she’s the director of the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute, and she’s on the clinical faculty at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. Also joining us is Molly McGrath, director of the Baltimore division of the state’s Department of Social Services.
STATEMENT BY DHR SECRETARY TED DALLAS
“Today, we are announcing steps we are taking to augment existing safety procedures that already include the use of a metal detector and on-site security personnel to monitor all those participating in visits with children.”
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND (April 27, 2012) – “The tragic events this week at our Baltimore facility on Biddle Street highlight the need for us remain vigilant in our efforts to safeguard the children it is our mission to protect. While our staff performed heroically and without regard to their own personal safety, this incident demands that we review our safety protocols and find ways to enhance them to prevent a repeat of anything like this from occurring again.
Today, we are announcing steps we are taking to augment existing safety procedures that already include the use of a metal detector and on-site security personnel to monitor all those participating in visits with children. Specifically, we are taking the following steps at four of our facilities in Baltimore effective Monday, April 30:
1. All bags will be stored in lockers prior to entering these facilities and before passing through the metal detectors already in the building.
Until these lockers are installed, security at the buildings will require that all bags are completely emptied in the presence of security staff and thoroughly searched prior to entering the facility; and
2. Caseworkers who in their professional judgement have reason to suspect a safety concern can have a second caseworker be present during a supervised visit with a child and, as needed, to have a member of the on-site security personnel stationed immediately outside of the meeting room.
The Department will closely monitor these changes in policy and their impact on security and adjust them accordingly over the next few months.
We will also review security at other facilities across the state and implement any enhancements that are necessary.
Our thoughts and prayers remain with the infant that was the victim of this horrible incident for her speedy recovery. We also understand the impact that this incident has had on our staff and the broader community. The overwhelming majority our families work cooperatively with the Department to rebuild their lives and form stable and loving relationships with their children.”