Supporting staff is supporting Cass County children

I worked for Cass County Social Services for over four years. I had five different supervisors, and countless co-workers.

The recent letters to the editor have encouraged me to speak out and support the other workers and their experiences. I witnessed supervisors that encouraged change and who advocated for their employees be torn down and driven away. I am aware of an employee who successfully sued Cass County because of the treatment they received. I watched several employees leave their positions and share the same negative experiences with management and nothing was acknowledged. I worked with the union to try to effect change and unfortunately nothing has.

Since I have left, I continue to be aware of employees who leave because they have been treated like “just another body” to fill the position and [were] degraded by the administration upon their exit.

Child Protective Services (CPS) is routinely required to work beyond normal working hours, especially during emergency situations. There are times that we need to drive children hours away to the only available foster home in the state. During these types of emergency situations, it is not uncommon for administration to deny overtime and to strong-arm employees into [reducing] their hours.

For example, an emergency placement led me to work until midnight on a Friday and I was denied overtime pay by the director until filing a grievance. Unfortunately, there is always more work than time available, and this causes meetings that should be prioritized to get canceled, services do not get set up, and documentation does not get completed. I have witnessed and experienced administration target employees, especially those employees that required overtime, or who advocated for families and their needs.

Cass County administration would take advantage of vulnerable moments when targeting employees. For example, they instituted PIPs (program improvement plans) for myself and a coworker the day after the funeral of our supervisor’s daughter. The whole unit was in shock from the tragedy and trying to balance navigating that and our caseload.

There was no support offered from management, and the PIP plans were based on things never previously brought to our attention. My co-worker [had] just completed their six-month review with no mention of issues. Administration was not interested in gathering more information and based their decision on inaccurate information.

I have experienced never knowing what to expect daily, and watched others experience the same, and I am still fighting the trauma and self-doubt that was instilled in me by the leadership of Cass County. The final straw was when they required me to move to a different unit. They cited that it was based on the needs of the agency, as another worker was filling a role in yet another unit and I would be required to take over many of their cases.

Unfortunately, either administration was premature or not being honest about their intentions, because I was left with very few cases, and was not allowed to help new employees asking for assistance.

The micromanagement and insensitivity from management has driven many great social workers away but ultimately it is damaging more families and children. How long will these issues be allowed to continue? How many supervisors and social workers will continue to be torn down and disregarded for advocating for the community? How many families and children need to be hurt by the system that should be helping?

Bailey Wethern

Laporte

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