On Tuesday afternoon I received a voicemail from a Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare case worker inquiring about one of my clients. She asked me to call her back and left me her number.
I have called her at least ten times in the past 48 hours but her phone rings endlessly and then hangs up before going to a voicemail system. I’m just lost as to why she even bothered to ask me to call her back if it is impossible to actually get her on the phone. If I had a current intern I would tell her to call that number until someone picked up.
I could write a treatise on the things that are fundamentally flawed with PA’s DPW.
Five months ago I was bored out of my mind at work. Then I started a new position while taking on a separate additional responsibility and maintaining another (street outreach, womp womp) and now I am busy all the time and never bored.
So that is mostly why this blog hasn’t been updated. The other reason is books.
“Ohio really did go to President Obama last night. And he really did win. And he really was born in Hawaii. And he really is, legitimately, President of the United States again. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics did not make up a fake unemployment rate last month. And the Congressional Research Service really can find no evidence that cutting taxes on rich people grows the economy. And the polls were not skewed to over-sample Democrats. And Nate Silver was not making up fake predictions about the election to make conservatives feel bad. Nate Silver was doing math. And climate change is real. And rape really does cause pregnancy sometimes. And evolution is a thing … And nobody’s taking away anyone’s guns. And taxes have not gone up. And the deficit is dropping, actually. And Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction. And the moon landing was real. And FEMA is not building concentration camps. And UN election observers are not taking over Texas. And moderate reforms of regulations on the insurance industry and the financial services industry are not the same thing as Communism.”—
Rachel Maddow, saying what every Democrat has been trying to tell every Republican. (via bowsic)
Pennsylvania is still spending taxpayer money on ads about a law that is not applicable to this election. So, not a good use of money — something we can agree on regardless of political beliefs, right?
The National Women’s History Project has reprinted Bertha Boye’s beautiful “Votes for Women” poster to honor the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote in California. On October 10, 1911, California became the sixth state where women could vote equally with men, nine years before the 19th Amendment enfranchised women nationally.
Created by artist Bertha Margaret Boye for the 1911 California campaign, this is probably the most popular poster produced during the American suffrage movement. Boye’s design, featuring a draped western suffragist posed against the Golden Gate as the sun sets behind her, won first place in a contest sponsored by the College Equal Suffrage League in San Francisco. The image was later reproduced on cards, fliers and publicity stamps.
The poster’s vibrant colors and evocative imagery helped draw attention to the suffrage measure, which was one of 23 propositions on the ballot. For an entire week in August, stores in San Francisco featured the colorful poster in their windows, often accompanied by festive decorations in suffrage yellow, which supporters referred to as “the color of success.”
"No one approached us about this," said Mr. McMahon, whose agency makes regular rounds to check on the homeless. Staffers noticed about two weeks ago that the compartments had been cleared of personal belongings, except for a painting left on the wall of one.
"All they’re doing is pushing people from one place on the street to another," he said. "There’s nothing proactive here to use this time, money or effort to help these people."
For the last 3.5 years that I have supervised our street outreach individuals have lived in these compartments (colloquially known as the apartments) - some have left them a mess, a few have cleaned them up in a way I thought was impossible but many have called them home.
As Pittsburgh continues to grow and succeed there comes the inevitable strains on the least influential and powerful and I’ve seen that happen repeatedly in the last few years - downtown, on the South Side, in East Liberty. I don’t begrudge whoever is finally filling in the apartments, its their property — its just amazing to know how much money is being spent on the project—$300,000—and what else that could pay for in terms of addressing the homelessness issue on the North Side.
“The mothers said that my vegetables were clearly not homegrown and organic and that they could taste the pesticides and preservatives on them. They asked if I knew that ranch dip is high in cholesterol and saturated fat which leads to heart disease.”—God, I love advice columns
"If she has dementia, then what does it matter how long you take?" this from a social worker. how respectable.
I’m sorry, Anonymous, I missed this message in my inbox referencing this post.
I don’t understand why you, Anonymous, take issue with my thoughts. So I’ll say this: anyone can e-mail me at breannajay (at) gmail (dot) com if they would like to engage in a dialogue about social workers, ethics, values, whatever. I mean that.
Most such cases are complicated and uncertain. “How confident do you have to be that a woman is going to die?” says Greene. “What if there would be complete loss of renal function – does that not merit consideration? What if a woman is going to go blind if she remains pregnant? Those are the kind of nuances that are hard to make bumper stickers out of.”
Basically, nothing frightens me more than the idea that the government could have more say over my health and future than my doctor.
Another complaint about the PA welfare department.
My client got a letter in the mail stating that she needed to call his/her caseworker. It listed first initial, last name of this case worker and his phone number. So I called that number.
Which was actually the number for the main office. After I navigated the menu and spoke to someone and let her know I was trying to reach X. XXXXX she said “this is his number ###-####” and then hung up.
1. You couldn’t transfer me?
2. Why wasn’t his actual number listed on the letter?
"This has been another episode of the Incompetency of Social Services starring Breanna the Social Worker"
Recently I had to take a trip to a Department of Public Welfare Office.
Before I went, I spent an absurdly long time on the phone trying to figure out which office I needed to go to. Different offices serve different zip codes and despite the technological advances everywhere, that information is not online. So first I called the DPW helpline. A message told me that there was a high call volume and to try back later. So helpful, that helpline.
I then dialed another number I found and after being on hold for a significant period of time, I spoke to a lovely woman who was able to direct me to the correct office and provided me with some more information.
The next day I picked up my client and we traveled to our destination.
I’ve been to many a welfare office before but always manage to forgot the particular horrors. It’s loud, its impersonal, it feels institutional, it smells bad, there are no windows, NO ONE is happy, NO ONE is helpful.
Have you read Harry Potter? Being in the welfare office, I imagine its how prisoners in Azkaban felt as the dementors circled around them.
So we arrived & I grabbed a paper application and started working on it with my client and cursed myself for not having just done it online. I had hoped we would be able to see someone at the actual office but instead were told that someone would call him/her within the next five days once the application was complete.
Once we finished, I brought the application back to the “greeter” and asked about the documents I had brought with us - “we can make copies of those here” she told me and I went back to get them.
There was a line when I returned. Not a big deal but it gave me a lot of time to stand there and stare around the office, soaking up all of its department of public welfare glory.
Framed pictures of our smiling governor and some other schlubs hung on the wall behind the glass where workers stood barking out people’s names. The security guard (a gal) who repeatedly rolled her eyes as people came in. I kept wondering what they needed security guards for and if they did, how any of the ones I saw were actually meant to protect any of us. The woman who spent a good ten minutes talking to someone behind me only to reappear and say “I was in front of you” before reasserting her position in front of me. The grandmother who yelled at her granddaughter because she needed to use the bathroom “You just went not that long ago.” I wanted to tell that little girl I have to pee all the time, too.
No happiness. Just fear, anxiety and frustration.
When I was finally at the front of the line and could see the greeter again, I said “here are the documents for her application” and she said back to me “the copier is over there….” and pointed. WELL, CHRIST. WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME THAT THE FIRST TIME. So I went over to make my own copies. Cleared out a paperjam from the person before me, got my own things together and then went back into the line.
And then a guy cut the line. Which is its own horror, not the least because NO ONE SAID ANYTHING. Not even me. Not even the security guard. Thanks, useless security guard. And he proceeded to address his problem. It took five minutes and when he was done, he still had his problem and no determinable solution.
Before that, I also had the pleasure of overhearing an excellent conversation about one young woman, who had moved, and requested her case be transferred from one office to the one we were currently in. She had requested it 11 days previously and YET. It hadn’t been approved so there wasn’t anything the office we were in could do for her or talk to her about, aside from how her case transferal hadn’t been approved.
See the welfare office? This is it in a nutshell.
Then I got back up to the greeter and gave her the papers and she said “so and so will be called within the next five days” and then finally we could high-tail it out of there. I think our visit was about 45 minutes. It felt like a lifetime.
After that, my client and I went to McDonald’s. Anywhere is better than the welfare office.
On Wednesday, I finished the last book (for now?) in the Tess Monaghan series by Laura Lippman. I’ve been moping around since then, feeling like I’ve lost a friend. Lippman’s a great writer and I’m going to console myself by reading all of her non-Tess books and think about visiting Baltimore at some point in the future.
I have fiction problems - work seems like just something I need to do in order to help me get some hands on more fiction (pass the time, pay for the books).
An e-book I’d been waiting, fourth in a series of eleven, became available last night and I “started” it around 11pm.
"I’m just going to read for a little bit, until I reach plot point X"
but that was a lie and I just kept going. I only yawned once, around 2:30. I think that was around the same time the dog wanted to go under the covers and one of the cats showed up to take her place lying on top of my arm.
I finished at 4:10, managed to get a solid one hour of sleep and now I’m going to go to work. Book #5 is my nook, which I am going to leave home because I do know what is good for me, sometimes.
“That’s the worst thing about being poor, having to answer people’s goddamn questions all the time. ‘You own a car? You got any money in savings? You got a man living with you? Who’s your baby’s father?’ I get sick of it, okay?”—This is a quote from a fictional character in a book I’m reading but I hope it is based on a legitimate experience—it has to be, it rings so true.
Another Freakonomics bit (though, not on Marketplace) about using peer pressure and shame to get people to do the right thing. YES.
I think everyone read Ezra Klein’s piece in the New Yorker about the perplexing phenomenon of politicians totally changing course on policy, using the Affordable Health Care Act as example, but if you haven’t, you should. (In other news, I finally got a subscription to the New Yorker.)
Some research highlighted how Americans, when thinking about choices, are less bothered by income equality. Oy.
And I read this book last weekend. It is set in August 1845 when the NYPD was brand-new and follows one of the new “copper stars” as he tries to figure out why a young girl he met is covered in blood. I definitely recommend it (as does my friend, G, who told me about it in the first place) — and there will be a sequel next summer.
Alternet presented five “Stand Your Ground” cases that are just as upsetting as the Trayvon Martin case. In brighter news, a man who shot & killed his neighbor in Texas had his “stand your ground” defense rejected by a jury and was found guilty of murder. [Texas law is a bit more reasonable, as well]
A number of my clients have received free legal aid for civil issues - usually landlord/tenant complaints. This story by Carrie Johnson for NPR about constant funding cuts to such programs piqued my interest.
And Kai Ryssdal and Stephen Dubner discussed something that everyone has had to deal with from time to time… customer service issues.