County Executive Joel Giambra continues to be a scapegoat for Erie County's financial troubles, even though there are many factors that contribute to those ills. It appears that those who supported him in the past, including the majority who elected him, continue to kick him while he's down.
It may be fashionable for me to do the same thing because I am of a different political persuasion and because I have recently watched many of my colleagues get laid off. However, I must compliment Giambra for his continued support of the Wraparound Initiative.
The Wraparound Initiative is spearheaded by social work professionals from community agencies and helps families involved in the mental health and social services systems. These social workers help families regain control of their lives by helping them identify their strengths and by giving them a voice in identifying and determining what kind of help they need, as opposed to having to accept a prearranged plan.
This initiative is saving federal, state and county money by helping children placed in residential facilities integrate back into the community within three to four months, as opposed to the 12 months they were court-ordered to spend in placement. It costs taxpayers about $100,000 annually to take care of a child in residential placement, as opposed to $15,000 when the Wraparound program is used.
Depending on their needs, social workers help a family identify strengths and secure services. Social workers enable or help identify a course of action to achieve a desired result. They mediate by helping others present their cases clearly. They act as integrators and coordinators, using skills ranging from advocacy and identification to direct involvement in the development and implementation of service linkage.
Social workers act as managers in terms of soliciting community support. They are educators who give information and teach skills. They are analysts who evaluate how well programs work, including their own interventions. They are brokers who put various segments of the community in touch with one another.
Social workers are facilitators who serve as leaders for some groups, such as the Wraparound Initiative. They act as negotiators for families who are trying to gain help from another segment of the community. They assume an advocate role when representing, intervening, supporting or recommending a course of action for families.
Giambra's admirable passion for wanting to do things smarter, better and cheaper is exemplified by the Wraparound Initiative. Unlike Giambra, who appears to be focusing on the strengths that the social work profession offers, we as a community too often seem to focus on deficiencies.
Let us help see the county executive through the community crisis we are experiencing. After all, we all have strengths that we can use to help one another solve our problems, needs and concerns.
John Ryan is a senior caseworker in the Erie County Department of Social Services, Children Services Division.