The Missouri Department of Social Services is a huge bureaucracy facing countless challenges on the dysfunctional aspects of society. Their mission may indeed be a problem without a solution. This massive state department deals daily with nothing but problems - child abuse, welfare and food stamp programs, neglect and a host of other issues that plague society.
Within that department stands the Division of Family Services. Their area may indeed be the most difficult and challenging of all. And now state officials belatedly want to address the growing concerns of that area. But it won't be simple.
Missouri is not alone. Headlines from Florida and New Jersey in recent months have highlighted the issue of overloaded caseworkers and the impossible task of dealing with dysfunctional families who look to the government on a daily basis.
Some within Missouri state government want to reorganize the Social Services Department. This move comes in the wake of a tragic death in the Springfield area where a youngster was killed while in the custody of the state foster parent program. But the problem existed long before the recent death and it will continue to exist until society as a whole demands change.
Despite massive and well-intentioned programs to address this growing population, far too many within our society simply cannot make it on their own. This growing population looks for government each and every day to address their housing, their food, their transportation, their medical needs and every other single aspect of life. When they go looking, Social Services is a logical first stop.
But here's the problem as I see it. Of that dependent population, many are truly desperate because of circumstances far beyond their control. For those people, our taxes are essential to sustain their lives and those of their children. Yet within that population also resides the lowest rung on society's ladder - the parasites who prey on taxpayers and who have no design to improve their lot in life. They will always look for the state to meet their daily needs. The challenge, of course, is to determine which families fall in which category. It is a challenge I would not relish. Yet Social Service personnel make those decisions daily.
This much I know to be true. More funding is not necessarily the answer. Politicians often believe that all problems can find a solution with sufficient funding. This historic flaw has proven ineffective for decades now yet we have not fully learned that lesson.
The solution takes the form of a resolve that those truly in need will be helped and those who can help themselves must be forced to do just that. Homelessness, neglect and countless other woes of society are often self-inflicted. It will take a massive rethinking to address this issue.
Reorganization within the state may be appropriate. But the solution lies in the hands of the dedicated caseworkers who toil in the field daily. They must recognize the difference between legitimate need and phony excuses. Only then will we see light at the end of this terrible tunnel.