Defund Social Workers: Cops by Another Name


From The New Republic: “The danger of trading out law enforcement for social workers, or trying to rein in police squads by adding soft-eyed chaperones, isn’t that the unarmed helpers would be ineffective or that crises sometimes require blunt force. The concern is that if you measure in terms of the power to coerce, surveil, and inflict lasting harm, social workers are, thanks to very nature of the job, cops by another name—‘key participants,’ said Dorothy Roberts, a sociologist and law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, ‘in a system that is designed to control and punish marginalized communities.’

JMacForFamilies is an organization devoted to fighting the child welfare system—or ‘family regulation’ system, as its critics often call it. Jasmine Wali, the director of advocacy at JMacForFamilies, explained, ‘Social workers are still going to put people in jail if they’re in crisis,’ if that crisis isn’t easy to handle, and they can’t ‘just talk the person down.’ In homeless shelters, staff members trained in social work call the police ‘on everything,’ just as they do in group homes for children in the foster care system ‘if a child misses curfew, or a child is throwing things or having a tantrum.’ Social workers administer urinalyses or other drug tests, which can result in people losing eligibility for social services. In the family court system, so much of what they do ‘is like parole work,’ said another social worker I spoke to. Between 2000 and 2020, among 54 cases of people arrested for self-managing or helping self-manage an abortion, 6 percent were reported to the police by social workers, according to a report by If/When/How.

‘Oh, so you want to be put in jail nicely?’ said Kamaria Excell, who works with ­JMacForFamilies. ‘Cuz that’s all that’s going to happen.… I’m not gonna show up necessarily with a gun.… I’m gonna have my sweater and my notebook,’ but ‘you’re going to jail.’ Backed against a wall—or just following the protocols of the agency or nonprofit that employs them—the social worker calls the police.”

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  1. “You snatch babies,” indeed. Beware of pathological lying social workers, if your well behaved child gets 100% on his state standardized tests. In the words of a psychologist – who rationalized such maltreatment by a social worker – “we want to maintain the status quo.”

    Murdering the best and brightest children in a country, so we may “maintain the” “pedophile empire”? Humm. Perhaps, that’s unwise?

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  2. Social workers “put people in jail” are often required to because there are no places for those who are having a mental health crisis. The problem is systemic. Social workers that give urine analysis are almost always required to by law. Again, this problem is systemic. It’s treated like parole work because that’s the job description. Personally, I would never ever take a job working in any legal focused social work – like CYS or DHS – because it is the laws that govern these agencies and the job descriptions themselves that put social workers in the positions where they have to do these things. I definitely don’t doubt that some social workers believe that they actually are doing the right thing which is unfortunate. I have known a handful of those. But I think a lot of them feel trapped inside of a system that is stacked against them and their clients And they are doing what they can to mitigate the impacts it has on the people they’re trying to help. Harm reduction philosophy is real and those rooted in that kind of philosophy are trying to make changes but…

    It is indeed a lot like police work – You think that once you get into a position you can change the system but once you’re in, you feel trapped and powerless because the problems are so deep and written into the very laws that govern your available actions. All this to say that if you’re a social worker, you also have to be involved in direct action, actively working to upend the laws and policies you are governed by. If you’re not, you’re complicit.

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