Thursday, September 22, 2011
Contacting Your State Legislator For Help
If your CPS social workers are lying, violating court orders, or just being unreasonable, you might get some relief from their tyranny by contacting your state legislator. I’ve done this many times when dealing with unscrupulous agencies, and each time had a pleasant resolution to my situation.
Let’s go back to how I discovered how effective this could be. Back in the 80′s I was a welfare eligibility worker for the Department of Social Services. Occasionally unhappy clients would contact their legislators, and whenever that happened we’d see the supervisor scrambling to get the case file to take it into the program manager’s office. We knew that these people hated to have anyone call their legislators because then the head of the entire Department of Social Services would get a call from Sacramento where our State Department of Social Services is. In other words, a lot of pressure was applied from the top management because they didn’t like getting these calls! What was even more frustrating to the supervisor was that every time there was a call to a legislator, the client got what she wanted.
A few years back a local Department of Social Services caseworker was harassing me after learning about this site. He came out here four or five times with totally facetious or trivial complaints, such as the accusation that I was homeschooling – something that is legal in all fifty states. After the last time, I decided to take action before he got the bright idea of detaining my children on the basis of the number of complaints he’d either manufactured or followed up on. What I did was to write a letter to this caseworker detailing each of his visits to my family, telling what his reasons were each time and what my response was. I sent him a copy of the letter, and sent a copy to his Program Manager, my county supervisor, a few legislators, and a few newspapers. Maybe a few other people, but I honestly don’t remember who at this point. There was a list of these people at the bottom of the letter, so he knew who was getting it. The state legislator wrote to me telling me he had contacted the head of the Department of Social Services for California. Talk about applying pressure from the top! Then the pressure no doubt reached the local office and I didn’t hear from the guy again for years.
I’ve done similar things regarding other agencies. My experiences with writing to state legislators for help have all been good, and so I’m telling you about it in case anyone wants to try it. If you do, here’s some pointers.
1) Write the legislator a formal letter. Handwriting is OK – it looks authentic. Second best is a typed letter. Worst, and probably useless, is email. I’ve heard that legislators in Washington DC have to delete a lot of email unread because they have no way of processing it. I don’t know if a state legislator would do that, but I wouldn’t trust email. In this case, paper is better.
2) Be sure you use proper spelling and grammar. I know that’s a problem for many people who use this site, but if you know you have a problem then you can ask the local high school English teacher or some other expert for help making the letter look good.
3) Tell the legislator in the first line that you are his constituent. And by the way, you should be sure you’re writing only to legislators that preside over your section of the state. As a constituent you are a person who can vote or not vote for him next time he runs for office.
4) Keep it short! One page is sufficient. Three paragraphs, better. When I wrote the letter I mentioned above, I sent the entire three page letter I’d sent to the social worker, but the cover letter to the legislator was only three very short paragraphs. The letter will probably be read by a staff member who doesn’t have a lot of time to wade through many pages of case information. They want to know your specific complaint and needs, and will be able to process it and act on it quickly. It wouldn’t hurt to attach any evidence you may have on hand.
You will probably get a letter back from the legislator’s office telling you whether or not they took action on your complaint. They are there to watch out for their constituents, so in most cases they’ll try to do something to help. They need to know when the laws they make aren’t being followed properly. They can’t change a court order, but if a CPS social worker is violating a court order or in any way breaking social service regulations, they can probably do something to create change. After getting your letter, you might want to write back and thank them for helping.