Pubdate: Wed, 09 Jul 2003
Source: Alexander City Outlook, The (AL)
Copyright: 2003 The Alexander City Outlook
Author: Stephanie Rebman


Due to hazardous home visits, the Alabama Department of Human Resources is 
going to train social workers on how to deal with dangers and outfit them 
with bullet proof vests.

Social workers throughout the state are in danger because of the growing 
number of crystal methamphetamine users, and while no social workers have 
been injured yet, according to the DHR Commissioner, Bill Fuller, action 
needs to be taken.

Marsha Hanks, County Director for Tallapoosa County DHR, said social 
workers are trained to deal with dangerous situations by leaving the scene.

"Our child protective services would never knowingly put themselves in 
harm's way," she said. "We're not law enforcement officials, we're not 
trained in tactics or procedures and don't carry guns. If a worker would be 
injured in a protective service assessment or if they inadvertently found 
themselves in a situation with a potential for violence, they have been 
trained to leave immediately and report to law enforcement to let law 
enforcement intervene."

Hanks is glad many of the 1,400 social workers throughout the state will 
receive additional training, because it will help them assess situations fully.

"I see training as a good thing because it helps social workers to know 
what it (meth) is, the dangers, risks, because they need to be 
knowledgeable about drugs," Hanks said.

Hanks said there has been some difficulties with crystal meth in the 
county, and meth labs are a growing problem, as are all other drugs.

Tallapoosa County Sheriff Jimmy Abbett said there are dangers social 
workers face, including those associated with drugs, and bullet proof vests 
would give them added safety.

"The social workers are very valuable working with law enforcement in child 
abuse cases and the other human resources cases," Abbett said. "They have 
to go into two areas that are unsafe and for safety's sake, it would 
probably be something of benefit to them."

Overall, Hanks said when Tallapoosa County's social workers recognize a 
dangerous situation, they do not perform an evaluation without the 
assistance of law enforcement.

"I would not want them being in harm's way," Hanks said. "That is not the 
role of the social worker. Their role is to protect the children and let 
law enforcement deal with potentially violent situations.

The cost for the equipment would range between $100,000 and $200,000, and 
officials hope to implement their plans as soon as possible for potentially 
dangerous encounters.
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