(ALLENTOWN/HARRISBURG) SEIU Local 668 proudly represents Children & Youth workers in Lehigh and Northampton Counties. On Wednesday, 11 October, President Steve Catanese, representing SEIU Local 668, delivered the following remarks to the Lehigh County Commissioners:
“On the best of days, workers in the child welfare profession face challenges and extraordinary circumstances with the highest stakes to protect the most vulnerable members of our Commonwealth, our children. Caseworkers and their supervisors deal with families at the point of crisis, when the emotions of all involved run high. In consultation with subject matter experts, these workers must make determinations about child safety that have ramifications not only for the child’s safety and well-being but also for the child’s family and local community. Caseworkers follow the guidance given to them, and they report back to the agency which has decision-making authority.
“Caseworkers themselves frequently enter unsafe situations while making those determinations. And even when they return home physically safe, the lasting impact of their decisions and ramifications is often debilitating to the caseworkers’ mental health. These ramifications are not limited to a caseworker’s inner conflict about their decision. Child welfare workers must also contend with charged public comment from families and elected officials to investigations that question the caseworker’s integrity and competence and cast a cloud over future cases.
“Compounding these challenges are difficult working conditions, such as substantial caseload sizes, complex federal, state, and county guidelines, high turnover rates, and wages that do not come close to meeting today’s cost of living. Despite these challenges, Children & Youth caseworkers act tirelessly and with integrity to protect the children under their purview. Caseworkers did not seek employment with Lehigh Children & Youth to pursue wealth or glory. They came to the agency to protect the County’s most vulnerable public citizens - its children. And they continue to do so each and every day.
“As a union representing more than 25 County child welfare agencies throughout Pennsylvania, SEIU Local 668 is committed to continuously improving the quality of services its members provide to the public. SEIU Local 668 will work with all stakeholders, including management, advocates, families, and elected officials, through appropriate channels to help improve underlying processes that will help serve children and families better throughout the Lehigh Valley and across the Commonwealth.”