Fresno County social workers speak out at Supervisors meeting, director of Social Services responds

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The fight from Fresno County social workers for better pay and proper housing for children removed from their homes continued Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors meeting.

Multiple social workers, parents, and child advocates spoke out demanding change

"Too many children, parents and social workers have suffered due to this broken system," one parent who had her children removed said to the board.

"It is very bothersome to me to find out that this was happening right under the noses of the board of supervisors," Chairman Steve Brandau responded.

"If it wasn't for the children, I wouldn't be coming to work and the children deserve better," said Julie Donnelly an SEIU Local 521 member and Fresno county social worker.

RELATED: Fresno Co. Social Services looks for long-term plan to house kids, here's how other counties do it

The outcry comes after social workers exposed conditions children were living in while waiting to be placed in a home, sleeping on floors and desks.

Since then, Fresno County has created a temporary living space while they await the completion of a new facility being built at the old Costco in Clovis.

Tuesday, social workers, parents, and advocates asked county leaders for better living conditions for kids, better working conditions for social workers, and a seat at the table when making decisions about the future of the department.

"We know the challenges and can provide the insight on how to overcome this," said Lorraine Ramirez an SEIU Local 521 member and Fresno county social worker.

Those who spoke out said they felt they had to speak to the board and the media directly because they don't feel Director of Social Services, Delfino Neira is doing enough.

RELATED: Fresno County Foster Care Oversight Committee chair says they were never told about conditions

"They are not listening to our concerns, and if it's brought to our director, Delfino, we don't know where it goes and, to be honest with you, staff have no trust in him. Because, if we did, we would not be here." said Yolanda Reyes an SEIU Local 521 member and Fresno County Social Worker.

In an exclusive interview Tuesday, Delfino Neira told Action News, that the department did share the concerns about conditions for children awaiting placement to the Foster Care Standards and Oversight Committee and the County Administrative Officer.

"I don't think it would be appropriate for me to speak to what they understood. I know, from my point of view, we thought we were communicating that." Neira said. "I think going forward, we will be much clearer on that."

On Monday, Neira and other County officials met with state representatives looking for help and long-term solutions, but Neira said not much came out of the conversation.

He said most of the help the California Department of Social Services offered are things they have under control.

"We did ask for, specifically for a license for a receiving home or a shelter, but they said no because it's not an allotted statute anymore," Neira said.

RELATED: Fresno social workers call for change as children sleep on floors, desks while waiting for a home

He acknowledged children sleeping in offices and working conditions have been an ongoing issue, but said the pandemic added to both.

Neira said there are monthly staff meetings to address concerns and community meetings will begin in the near future.

He is hoping a state representative can help with legislation that can offer up a long-term solution.
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