4-27-12: Keeping Social Workers Safe

April 27, 2012 at 8:56 am 2 comments

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.

This morning, Department of Human Resources Secretary Ted Dallas sent out the following press release outlining new security procedures for several Baltimore Department of Social Services facilities:

“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.”


Entry filed under: Crime, On Air, Safety Net.

4-27-12: There’s You…and Then There’s You on Facebook 4-30-12: Thin Space

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Cindy Walsh  |  April 27, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Your interview with the social workers does indeed highlight the difficulties these caseworkers face. It did not mention one of the problems that cause these hardships:

    Maryland and Baltimore budget cuts have made the caseworker client ratio as high as 500 to 1. Normal ratio would be 80 to 1. Essentially, these clients are getting no help from social services, poushing them to desperation.

    Child care benefits for these same underserved mothers have been cut to the point that these mothers cannot get jobs….cuts in beneftis and healthcare, especially mental health leave the underserved in desperation.

    Johns Hopkins through its East Baltimore Development is, as the Maryland Daily Record stated, conducting ‘ethnic cleansing of the eastside and downtown area. That includes physically relocating people, moving access to services, and now, the use of charter schools to deny access to public schools in Hopkin’s Enterprise zones.

    That is what pushed this mother to despair. It is the same as a monk pouring gasoline on himself and lighting himself on fire…..it is all she had to get attention to the plight of the underserved in Baltimore.

  • 2. James Richardson  |  April 27, 2012 at 9:34 am

    I was glad to learn that the social workers in this unfortunate incident are being supported, but your interview really let DSS off the hook. As your guests stated, violence against social workers is not unprecedented. Why were not the necessary procedures in place already? I was appalled, as I’m sure many were, that a knife could be brought into a room where a supervised parent-child visit was to take place. Thank goodness for the quick thinking of the social workers who were present, but social workers should not need training in hand-to-hand combat in order to do their jobs.


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