Diary of a Social Worker book review

Diary of a Social Worker
A book by Rodney Johnson

Review by Kent Manthie

The thing about people is that they are so damn predictable; they’re not only predictable, they can be nosy neighbors, vindictive jerks and vengeful folks – ex-lovers, pissed off neighbors and the like.

This simple idea is empiricized in a new book that was just self-published by a guy whose day job is a social worker, employed by Child Protective Services in San Diego County in Southern California. His name is Rodney Johnson and in his new book Diary of a Social Worker Johnson takes us through the intriguing world of the never-ending process of hotline calls from, uh…”concerned citizens” about parents abusing and/or neglecting their children, all of which have to be followed up on.

Diary of a Social Worker is born from a diary that Johnson kept over the course of a couple years or so capturing the essence of child protection. It isn’t written in any kind of dramatized prose; it hasn’t been spiced up or editorialized with commentary and pontification it just goes along, day by day, call after call; just the facts, to coin a phrase.

Reading through Diary of a Social Worker is kind of like going through the files of CPS and reading through reports that get filed every day on the actions of the staff.

One thing I learned from reading this book is that overwhelming majority of the calls that come into the “hotline” are bogus calls; but they all get followed up on; Johnson goes to each house, talks to the accused parents and checks out how the kids are doing and invariably writes in his diary that the accusations were “unfounded; without merit” and so on. It seems like calling CPS and saying that someone you know is abusing their kids is an effective way of getting revenge on someone. I say “effective” in that, although nothing usually ever happens to the people who get snitched on, it still causes them a big headache, it’s embarrassing too to have to explain to some CPS worker they’ve never met that they’re not abusing their kids, they love their children and take damn good care of them and the only reason this is happening is due to a spat with their neighbors or their ex or some enemy of theirs and this is the tactic used to exact some sort of vengeance

I read report after report, entry after entry and I kept on waiting for a legitimate abuse allegation to appear, some incident where the charge of child abuse and/or neglect was warranted and some gross violation occurred or something, not that I was hoping to read about real cases of children getting abused, but I wanted to see if after bogus charge after bogus charge was made if there existed any actual cases of abuse that was getting exposed and stopped; but I was kind of surprised that the majority of the calls that Johnson had to make to all these people’s homes to interrogate them about how they’re raising their children were nothing but phony charges made to get back at an ex-lover or a neighbor with whom they’re feuding. That just shows the raging immaturity that is rampant, at least in Southern California. Have grown adults always been this despicable in working out their animosities? Has this sort of stuff always gone on with this frequency or is it something that is relatively new? My curiosity has been piqued now and I’m wondering if there are statistics out there that would give an answer one way or another. I am going to do some research and then I’ll get back to you on just what the deal is. That’s like those bastards who file phony charges of child molestation against someone they dislike or with whom they have some kind of disagreement going on, they end up ruining innocent people’s lives.

Rodney Johnson is a seasoned veteran of the ranks of the San Diego County Children Protective Services; he’s seen it all in his time there. Diary of a Social Worker is full of day-by-day accounts, trimmed down, no doubt, for brevity’s sake; but filled, nonetheless with vivid accounts of the wild and woolly life of a hard-nosed, rough-and-tumble, but at the bottom of it all, good-hearted, intelligent guy who knows what’s going on, knows the score, so to speak. All in all, it looks like Johnson is a damn fine social worker, who has put in quite a few years of service. Just his being out there makes child abusers think twice before smacking their kid around or sending them to bed without supper.

Read Diary of a Social Worker for the you-are-there feel to it, the hard-boiled, naked prose that speaks volumes through a “literary verite” about the real-life machinations that are and have been occurring right under our very noses. This book will both excite and titillate while simultaneously making us wonder what kind of society we live in where children become pawns in petty squabbles and feuds between grown-ups.

KM

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