Once again our fearless leaders have seized upon the shallowest of ideas to address a problem. The notion of turning over certain duties of the Department of Family and Children Services to the private sector has some politicians positively giddy, mainly because they have jumped ahead to the idea it will somehow save money.
Privatization has long been viewed by some as the answer to ills of government and there are instances where it has worked effectively. But this consideration by the legislature is premature and fraught with peril.
Having multiple organizations, especially in a state where there are areas of vastly differing needs, providing a myriad of services to children does not ensure any consistency or betterment of the services provided.
If company A turns out to be Fred’s Child Services and Bail Shack and found to be massively incompetent, officials have said they will be ousted. The issue then becomes how much damage or failure to provide adequate services did this outfit do in the six months or year it had the contract.
The oversight of such private providers must be strenuous and, given the ostrich-like nature of high level guvmint’ officials who often worry about their own agenda, the monitoring of such organizations is dubious. This does not mean a private company cannot provide proper services but the mission must be specific and the tolerance levels for error small.
There is no doubt DFCS has issues, brought to the front burner once again by recent tragic events.
But government leaders, rather than focusing on correcting internal problems, tend to have a knee-jerk reaction and look to make a big splash that may help them politically. They fall back on the notion they can sell the idea they did something, even if it was the wrong something.
The place to start is a serious examination of DFCS and a willingness to address issues within the agency. This does not need to be done by a blue ribbon committee of appointed soft-bottomed bureaucrats with nice resumes who have never worked in the system - and working in the system does not mean people who have squatted in upper management forever.
The people who are responsible for utilizing these policies and procedures know the problems more readily than anyone.
Overloaded caseworkers, investigators with too many open cases, employee turnover due to burnout and lack of resources all contribute to what can ultimately be a general dysfunction of the agency.
If private organizations can help relieve some of these difficulties while providing appropriate service certainly the option should be explored. But do not think privatization is a panacea for public sector problems. This evaluation needs to be done in a deliberate and exacting manner to ensure the best chance they will be effective in providing services to the most vulnerable element of our society.
Meanwhile, work with what you already have in place to make it better.
Ric Latarski is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at Rlatarski@aol.com.