Chronicle of the Alameda County Social Services Agency Foster Care System - (Page 10)
for 15 years in a row. A letter to the Alameda County Social Services Agency alerted the DCFS staff to the finding of the State’s October 1999 review of random cases within the department (see Appendix B). Cases that received Family Maintenance, Family Reunification, Permanent Placement, and Independent Living services were reviewed. “It had been a long standing problem and the department had never taken steps to address it in any serious kind of way.” Staff member, Alameda County Department of Children and Family Services As Hewitt began plans for writing the State-required Corrective Action Plan, he was informed of a meeting to discuss a “change in approach.” In that meeting, attorneys for California’s Department of Social Services served Hewitt with a Welfare and Institutions Code 10605 Notice, the first step in the State’s proposed takeover of a child welfare system. Just two weeks into the job of assistant agency director, Hewitt was faced with the sobering reality of being at the helm of the poorest performing child welfare system in California, and the real possibility of losing control of the department to the State. In December 2000, Hewitt called a meeting of the entire DCFS staff. Close to 300 concerned and anxious child welfare workers, program managers, division directors, labor union personnel, and county officials packed into an auditorium at the Oakland Police Department to hear his message. For a majority of them, it was their first time meeting him. “He wanted to give people a sense of the direction for the department. We had reached a point of no return. We either succeeded or the State was going to take us over. There were no other options.” Former program manager, Alameda County Department of Children and Family Services It was a difficult meeting and a difficult message for the staff to hear. The goal for Hewitt was to use the tone of the conversation to motivate the staff to think differently about their work and the county’s child welfare system. To move the department beyond the crisis it was facing, Hewitt would need to use his skills as a community servant, an attorney, a foundation executive, and most importantly a team builder. “I was not quite sure I was going to be successful. I knew I had to try as hard as I could and that I need not be worried about failing. Anything I made better would benefit the kids who were in foster care.” Chet Hewitt, Former Director, Alameda County Social Services Agency Children and Families First
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