Rep. Tammie Wilson (R, Pure Selfishness) has staked out yet another outrageous, irrational political position. Once again, she has grossly overreacted to a constituent whinge and sabotaged an important government function. It’s a predictable, absolutely destructive pattern.
This time, a constituent has complained that the Office of Children’s Services improperly acted against his or her kids, what Rep. Wilson recklessly called “legal kidnapping.” In reaction, Rep. Wilson has demanded the Alaska Department of Law convene a grand jury to investigate OCS.
Let’s have a reality check.
First, Alaska has the highest sexual abuse rate in the nation. It’s not even close. And about 70% of sexual abuse is committed on children under the age of 18. You don’t solve a horrible problem like that by giving possible abusers more rope.
Second, Rep. Wilson and her crowd of fiscal lunatics have cut the OCS budget to the point that individual OCS caseworkers have to manage more than twice the recommended caseload. Alaska social workers handle more than thirty families each, against a recommended load to 12 to 15 families each. That means fewer family visits per month, less support and assistance to struggling parents and a larger window of time between visits for neglect and abuse to occur.
Third, while OCS does try to keep families together, and reunite them when possible, the safety of children must come first. If a mother of two daughters has a boyfriend who is a convicted sexual offender, and the mother fails to get the boyfriend out of the home, WC thinks the safety of the children mandates removal of the children from the home.
Fourth, it’s WC’s experience that the OCS caseworkers are passionate about their work, and care deeply about keeping families together. If you thjink that a family social worker gets up in the morning planning to wreck homes, you don’t know any social workers personally. Think of it this way: if social workers really were lazy government slugs, the last thing they’d do is randomly seize folks’ children: there’s an incredible amount of paperwork involved, and at the end of the day they have to explain their conduct to a judge.
Last, it’s WC’s experience that the parents who scream the loudest are all too often the worst offenders. One of the worst parents WC encountered in his legal career complained to every government official you can imagine – including the President of the United States – that the government was stealing her kids. The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the termination of her parental rights. The parents who go outside the courts, outside the system, to the Tammie Wilsons of the world, are very often the ones who know they have abused their kids and want to avoid the reckoning. Like the Christianists and pervert preachers, they are complaining just a little too loudly.
But let’s give Rep. Wilson the benefit of the doubt. Let’s assume that she has found a genuine instance of social worker misconduct. What would a sensible elected official do?
Try to improve a system that is absolutely necessary to safeguard our kids? Or take a flamethrower to an essential service by calling for a grand jury investigation?
Maybe a responsible elected official would work to reduce the number of cases each OCS family social worker has to manage? Find some money to hire more social workers? Or it she really thought the system was wrong, amend the family law statutes to reduce protection for children? If social workers have too much discretion – they don’t, but if they did – a legislator has the power to reduce that discretion, to change the laws.
But that’s not how Rep. Wilson operates. An annoying fly? She’ll try to swat it with a bazooka. It’s her pattern. A constituent complains about being forced to stop burning rubber tires for heat? She’ll try to stop all regulation of stovepipe emissions. A constituent complains that her restaurant got a bad inspection score from Public Health? She tries to stop inspection of all restaurants. A constituent complains that the gas company is using an easement on their property to deliver less expensive, clean energy to their homes? Rep. Wilson urges her constituents to sabotage the effort by committing a federal crime.
Rep. Wilson’s idiot approach to governing is just the latest example.
Rep. Wilson frequently claims that government is the problem. In one very narrow sense, she’s right about that. Any mirror would show her the evidence.