DYRS work­ers lack le­gal li­censes

Only 5 have cre­den­tials

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY JEF­FREY AN­DER­SON

De­spite a D.C. law that re­quires a so­cial worker’s li­cense to per­form “psy­choso­cial eval­u­a­tion and as­sess­ment, coun­sel­ing, and con­sul­ta­tion” for those who work with youth of­fend­ers, only five of more than 30 case man­agers in the Depart­ment of Youth Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Ser­vices (DYRS) pos­sess such a li­cense.

Based on a data­base search of all pro­fes­sional or oc­cu­pa­tional li­censes is­sued by the D.C. gov­ern­ment, The Washington Times doc­u­mented five li­censed so­cial work­ers em­ployed at DYRS, which has more than 1,000 youth of­fend­ers com­mit­ted to its cus­tody —

75 per­cent of whom live in com­mu­nity set­tings un­der DYRS mon­i­tor­ing.

The le­gal re­quire­ment that so­cial work­ers eval­u­ate, as­sess and coun­sel youths dates to the early 1980s, dur­ing the first may­oral ad­min­is­tra­tion of Mar­ion Barry, a Demo­crat and D.C. Coun­cil mem­ber who now rep­re­sents Ward 8. For years, un­til an agency over­haul in the 1990s led to a push to hire more case man­agers, DYRS had an “af­ter­care” di­vi­sion fully staffed with li­censed so­cial work­ers, ac­cord­ing to la­bor of­fi­cials who rep­re­sent both types of pro­fes­sion­als.

In time, those of­fi­cials said, case man­agers be­gan per­form­ing the same func­tions and car­ry­ing the same caseloads as so­cial work­ers.

Some veteran DYRS ad­min­is­tra­tors ac­knowl­edge that the func­tions of a so­cial worker and a case man­ager are iden­ti­cal un­der the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tive mod­els prac­ticed in the Dis­trict. But they say both are prac­tic­ing what amounts to case man­age­ment, de­fined by DYRS as su­per­vis­ing and sup­port­ing youths in the safest, least re­stric­tive en­vi­ron­ment that fos­ters a tran­si­tion to adult­hood.

But Charles Tucker, gen­eral coun­sel to the D.C. Depart­ment of Hu­man Re­sources (DCHR), said in a let­ter to The Times this week that case man­agers, who han­dle more than 30 youths at a time, are not sub­ject to the same li­cen­sure re­quire­ments as so­cial work­ers.

“So­cial work­ers di­ag­nose psy­choso­cial prob­lems ac­cord­ing to the­ory and meth­ods gained from ed­u­ca­tion and li­cen­sure,” he wrote. “They also prac­tice pre­scribed treat­ments ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try stan­dards. Case man­agers in­ter­act with in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies, and fol­low the pre­scribed in­struc­tions of the so­cial worker.”

DYRS of­fi­cials and Deputy Mayor B.B. Otero, who over­sees DYRS, did not respond to nu­mer­ous re­quests for com­ment. Bon­nie Ram­per­saud, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the D.C. boards of be­hav­ioral health, one of which li­censes so­cial work­ers, de­clined to com­ment.

Out of harm’s way

In re­cent years, DYRS has strug­gled to con­nect with its of­fender pop­u­la­tion and keep the youths out of harm’s way, much less re­ha­bil­i­tate them. As The Times re­cently re­ported, more than 50 youths com­mit­ted to DYRS ei­ther have been killed or found guilty of killing some­one else over the past five years.

A group home li­censed by the Dis­trict is de­fend­ing a $20 mil­lion law­suit by the fam­ily of Neil Godleski, a Catholic Univer­sity stu­dent killed in 2010 in an in­ci­dent that led to the ar­rest of a DYRS ward and res­i­dent of the home.

Based on an in­ter­nal study re­leased in De­cem­ber, on any given day more than 300 youths clas­si­fied as a medium to high risk of re-of­fend­ing are placed in a com­mu­nity set­ting to be mon­i­tored by a DYRS case man­ager — or a grass-roots agency with even less for­mal train­ing.

La­bor unions that rep­re­sent case man­agers and so­cial work­ers have been press­ing DYRS for years to fall into com­pli­ance with D.C. law by train­ing its case man­agers so they can be­come li­censed as so­cial work­ers, who have many dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories and spe­cial­ties.

John Walker, na­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the 14th Dis­trict of the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Gov­ern­ment Em­ploy­ees (AFGE), said case man­agers rou­tinely per­form func­tions iden­ti­fied in the so­cial worker li­cens­ing statute.

Those func­tions in­clude psy­choso­cial as­sess­ment, which fo­cuses on lack of per­sonal de­vel­op­ment, of­ten amid dys­func­tions that may be phys­i­cal, emo­tional or cog­ni­tive, he said. As­sess­ments, he said, are per­formed by both so­cial work­ers and case man­agers “to guide the agency in mak­ing the crit­i­cal decision whether to de­tain or re­lease a com­mit­ted youth.”

Such de­ci­sions re­quire case man­agers to as­sign points for var­i­ous risk fac­tors and then pro­duce a to­tal score in­di­cat­ing whether the youth is el­i­gi­ble for se­cure de­ten­tion, for a non­se­cure al­ter­na­tive de­ten­tion pro­gram, or for re­lease home, he said.

Case man­agers and so­cial work­ers at DYRS both per­form coun­sel­ing func­tions, Mr. Walker said, which may in­clude pro­vid­ing ad­vice, in­struc­tion, skill de­vel­op­ment, process con­sul­ta­tion or opin­ion to youths who have ma­jor life prob­lems.

Both groups of pro­fes­sion­als rou­tinely en­gage in com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tion, he added, in­clud­ing at­tempts to se­cure the high­est ser­vices from spe­cial­ists, or­ga­ni­za­tions, agen­cies and the in­sti­tu­tions within the D.C. met­ro­pol­i­tan area and be­yond.

Not in D.C. code

“DYRS work­ers per­form ev­ery­thing else in be­tween in­clud­ing re­fer­ral, ad­vo­cacy, me­di­a­tion, con­sul­ta­tion, re­search, ad­min­is­tra­tion, and ed­u­ca­tion re­fer­ral,” he said. “All are de­fined by D.C. Code as so­cial work prac­tice. Noth­ing in the D.C. Code de­fines case man­age­ment prac­tice. But there is an oc­cu­pa­tion known as so­cial work case man­age­ment.”

Mr. Walker has tes­ti­fied be­fore the Board of So­cial Work, to no avail. He said he con­fronted the DYRS di­rec­tor in 2005, Vin­cent N. Schi­raldi, and Mr. Schi­raldi said, “I don’t give a [ex­ple­tive]. I just need peo­ple who can do the work.”

In 2009, DYRS im­ple­mented ed­u­ca­tional re­quire­ments for case man­agers, Mr. Walker said, af­ter AFGE worked with DCHR to de­velop a stan­dard that case man­agers could tran­si­tion into — with train­ing paid for by the agency — and even­tu­ally test to be grand­fa­thered as “so­cial work as­so­ciates.”

That has not hap­pened, he said, sug­gest­ing that time has come to con­vene a panel “to clar­ify the prac­tice of so­cial work in the Dis­trict of Columbia be­fore it cre­ates se­ri­ous li­a­bil­ity ques­tions for the work­ers, DYRS and the Dis­trict gov­ern­ment.”

D.C. Coun­cil mem­ber Jim Gra­ham, the Ward 1 Demo­crat who over­sees DYRS, did not take a firm po­si­tion on pro­fes­sional li­cens­ing this week, but said he has con­cerns about a lack of youth ser­vices.

“The case man­ager-to-youth ra­tio is very much on our radar,” he told The Times. “We must in­vest in DYRS em­ploy­ees and their pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment as case man­agers, so­cial work­ers and youth-de­vel­op­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Em­ploy­ees must be prop­erly su­per­vised and given the op­por­tu­nity to grow.

“Ev­ery­one must buy into this sys­tem in or­der for it to work,” he said, not­ing that DYRS fol­lows a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tive model that has been suc­cess­ful in Mis­souri. “We saw the im­por­tance of on­go­ing pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment in Mis­souri and the dif­fer­ence it makes in the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion sys­tem and the im­pact it has on the young peo­ple.

“If front-line work­ers feel re­spected by the sys­tem and feel a part of that sys­tem, that pos­i­tive spirit fil­ters its way to the young peo­ple.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.