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Philadelphia: DHS Threatens Taking Mass Custody of Protester's Children

by Kensington Welfare Rights Union Saturday, Jul. 29, 2000 at 10:26 AM
kwru@libertynet.org 215/203-1945

This is the latest from Philadelphia: A leaked DHS Memo threatens taking mass custody of protester's children. Read a social work professor's response. See www.kwru.org for more information.

Temple Social Work Professor's Response to DHS Memo

My name is Mary Bricker-Jenkins. I have been a social worker since 1964, am a professor at Temple University School of Social Administration, and serve as the board liaison with KWRU for the Social Welfare Action Alliance, a national organization of social workers that works as allies with KWRU. Significantly in this context I have conducted federally funded research on child abuse and neglect and have published in this area.

The Department of Human Services officials have said that they will "stand by" to be available in case of emergency. Let us be clear that there will be no emergency that is not precipitated by the city. KWRU families take care of their children, often against great odds, and are particularly responsible in their marches demonstrations, and civil disobedience actions.

For this reason and because KWRU is leading the fight against the foremost cause of child abuse and neglect – poverty – this march has been endorsed by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Philadelphia Division and the state chapter. As we speak, motions to endorse are moving forward at the national level and at the Internatioanl Federation of Social Workers now meeting in Canada. Cheri Honkala was named public citizen of the year by NASW – PA Chapter precisely because she is a responsible leader in a movement to end poverty – a goal that is integral to the social work mission.

Surveillance and intimidation of poor people is not a social work mission. Being used by city officials as political police is not a social work mission. To ask us to engage in these is unethical and abominable, particularly when DHS workers are overwhelmed with bona fide reports of abuse and neglect and when they are struggling against the odds to find resources to help keep families together in this city.

Front line social workers know that KWRU parents are responsible, and many social workers have turned to the organization for help in doing their jobs. We know what kind of political and economic pressures they are under, and we are asking them to resist and refuse – to involve the Code of Ethics of the NASW and refuse to participate in acts of intimidation and harrassment of the people they are charged to help.

Social workers are coming to this march from all over this country. We will monitor the actions of the city and support our colleagues who, as conscientious objectors, stand with the families of KWRU. We will not allow ourselves to be the soft cops of this post-welfare state; we are determined to fulfill our mission, and that means being committed allies of KWRU. We will march with the children and their parents to protect the children by demanding an end to poverty in this country.

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