In the Biblical story, Solomon demonstrates his great wisdom when two women both claim to be the mothers of the same baby. Solomon orders the baby to be divided in half between the two, and in so doing finds the true mother.
You could understand if those who work in child protection services in the modern world think Solomon had it easy.
Gov. Nathan Deal unveiled earlier this month a plan to bolster the number of counselors and supervisors in the Department of Family and Children’s Services by some 500 people over the next three years. The announcement comes on the heels of two tragic deaths of youngsters, both of whom had been the subject of DFCS investigations prior to their deaths but were not taken into state custody for protection.
Nothing the state does to add to the number of DFCS employees or to improve their training will bring back to life any of the children killed in abusive situations, but the move will make it more likely that the agency can do a better job in the future of protecting those too young to protect themselves.
Even with the 500 new employees promised by the governor, DFCS will be below the staffing levels of just a few years ago. Austere state budgets and repeated expense cuts have trimmed some 900 people out of the department in recent years.
But the new hires, and a new emphasis on better training, will certainly help. Existing DFCS caseworkers can’t keep up with constantly expanding caseloads.
At the best of times, with sufficient staffing, caseworkers have a difficult and thankless job. Take a child from its family without sufficient cause and you can destroy lives; leave a child in a dangerous situation in an effort to keep families together and risk horrific and abusive deaths.
When we hear stories like the one from Gwinnett, where a 10-year-old girl apparently was starved to death after being repeatedly abused, and learn that her situation had been investigated by DFCS previously, we want heads to roll and changes to be made. And in cases where someone clearly didn’t do their job, that’s what should happen.
The job of dealing with the fate of families and children, deciding the worthiness of parents, protecting the innocent from the abusive, isn’t one where the right decisions are clearly marked in definitive shades of black and white.
We need more people on the staff of DFCS. We need better training. We need more support for the program. We need swift action when people fail to do their jobs.
But more than anything else we need more humanity, more morality, more respect for human life. When parents abuse and kill their own children, often in barbaric and horrific ways, there is more wrong than any government agency can correct.
You don’t need the wisdom of Solomon to figure that out.