- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Shirley Tabb, a social worker in the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency who has publicly criticized problems in the agency was fired Tuesday for “misrepresenting agency practice to the media.”

Miss Tabb, who has worked for the department for 13 years, was part of a broadcast news report two weeks ago on foster children in the care of Child and Family Services who were sleeping on cots overnight in the agency’s Sixth Street Southwest office building.

“I went to the media, and they said I was insubordinate, and by going to the media I compromised the agency’s integrity,” Miss Tabb said yesterday. “It’s all bound to the fact that I went to the media.”

Government employees who are whistleblowers are protected by law, but enforcement of that protection is often up to the courts. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union plans to file a grievance on Miss Tabb’s behalf , Stephen White, a staff representative of the union, said yesterday.

“This is clearly an act of retaliation on the agency’s part, and we plan on grieving it the fullest extent, which includes taking it to arbitration if necessary,” Mr. White said. “Miss Tabb was only trying to do what was in the best interest of the children. Instead of disciplining her, they should’ve been trying to support her in her efforts to support the children.”

D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, a mayoral candidate and the chairman of the city’s Human Services Committee, said he plans to send a letter to Brenda Donald Walker, the Child and Family Service’s director, inquiring about why Miss Tabb was fired.

“It looks to me like a whistleblower-retaliation situation,” Mr. Fenty said yesterday. “It’s very clear to me that Miss Tabb is trying to act on behalf of the kids in our system, and I would hope that the agency would welcome that, not fire her for it.”

Miss Tabb showed WUSA-TV(Channel 9) photographs and a taped message indicating that children were bunking overnight in the office building. She said the situation is caused by the agency’s not having enough emergency foster parents to take children in the middle of the night and no hospitality center with beds for children who need a place to stay.

Miss Tabb also steered WUSA-TV to couples who said they had applied with the city to work as emergency foster parents but had been blocked by bureaucracy.

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