The System

I just got done staring at two large packets of government paperwork I need to fill out for services for the little man. I have a sneaking suspicion that these two packets are for the same service – one an initial application and one the follow-up. This is not the first time I’ve had this suspicion, but all of the paperwork is so similar it is really hard to tell.

Dealing with the Department of Human Services is a never-ending flow of paperwork and caseworkers. Every year or so we get a letter informing us that the little man has a new caseworker – I’m assuming this happens because of the massive loads the workers have. Only one has every shown any interest in the little man. Only one time in five years have we ever had a caseworker suggest something to us or even contact us after an initial phone call. [This has always been my #1 complaint with DHS – you have to know specifically what question to ask to get any help.] And of course, she wasn’t our caseworker for long enough to finish that particular application. There seems to be little carryover from one person to the next. Hence my sneaking suspicion that we have already filled out these forms.

Sometimes the paperwork arrives at the house without even a simple letter of explanation. Other times the letter is so full of convoluted government speak I have to read it multiple times to completely understand. Almost always I have to google the service I am filing the forms out for – it is usually something I have never heard of. The letter, of course, reads like it is something I have requested or discussed with the caseworker. Yeah, right. Other times, the paperwork is clearly meant to be completed by a DHS worker in the room observing and working with the little man. I don’t even know what all of these medical terms means, but the google and I will give it a go.

I try not to blame the individual caseworkers for the state of the system. I know they are overworked, underpaid, sometimes – sadly – very jaded. Our current caseworker isn’t even in our county, by the way. In fact, if I wanted to actually meet with her to discuss some of the complicated subjects and forms, I would have to plan for a three-hour drive.

Somewhere along the line we gave up. The only services the little man uses currently were facilitated by the social worker at his daycare. If we have questions, we call and ask her. I’d have to dig the form out just to tell you the name of our current DHS worker (something I will have to do to complete the section of the forms where they ask us, once again, if we have a DHS worker and, if not, do we want one).

He will be starting school next year though and it is time to jump back into the system. I really hate navigating the system. Sadly, I’ve found the best way to get any actual help is to take my [well-educated, white] self down to the office in person. I’d like to be able to do something to help. The people who so desperately need these services are being shut out of the very system set up to help them. I don’t even know where to start though.



  1. I agree completely. The bureaucratic red tape makes it virtually impossible to do the work. This is true in mental health also. The true sign of the fall of a civilization is the inability to get things done as far as I’m concerned….BTW, I worked in mental health myself so I know it from the provider’s POV.

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