When Josh Powell killed his two young sons and then himself, he left behind shattered family members–and a distraught social worker, who for months had been assigned to the boys' care, and drove the boys to the Powell home for a court-ordered supervised visit. Powell locked her out, leaving her forced to call 9-1-1 in a desperate effort to get help–a moment captured in a recording released by police:
DISPATCHER: Good morning.
SOCIAL WORKER: Hey, I'm on a supervised visitation for a court ordered exhibit and something really weird is happened. The kids went into the house and the parent, biological parent, his name is Josh Powell, will not let me in the door. What should I do?
911 OPERATOR: How did he gain access to the children before you got there?
SOCIAL WORKER: I was one step in back of them.
911 OPERATOR: So they went into the house and he locked you out?
SOCIAL WORKER: Yes. He shut the door right in my face.
911 OPERATOR: Alright, now it's clear. Your last name? ....
911 OPERATOR: And what agency are you with?
SOCIAL WORKER: Foster Care Resources Network. (Pause). And the kids have been in there by now approximately 10 minutes. And he knows this is a supervised visit.
911 OPERATOR: How many children?
SOCIAL WORKER: Two, Braden is five and Charlie is seven.
Help, in this case, would come too late for Braden and Charlie. And for Erin Burnett, blaming the social worker might be expected, but ultimately it's unfair. "On the surface, it seems everyone did everything not only that was required under the law, but also everything that felt right."
Burnett notes that in communities across the country, social workers face heavier workloads–and fewer resources. "There are so many social workers out there who are trying to do the right thing, and juggle all those cases they have to handle, and they do it with compassion, and they do it with love. And when something goes wrong, their lives are ruined too."