This week we dive into Joe's work at the Strengthening Families program, and find ourselves knee-deep in pizza boxes. Cool & Unusual Punishment is a member of the Nerd & Tie Network! Find more shows from N&T at their website in the show notes. As always, thanks for listening!
Joe Luginbill ECASD bio
Joe Luginbill Ballotpedia Bio
Joe Luginbill WEAU bio
Eau Claire Coalition for Youth
Northern Spirit Radio Joe Luginbill Interview
WPR Joe Luginbill Interview
Strengthening Families Program
Nerd & Tie Network
Tyler: You're listening to Cool and Unusual Punishment. This is episode nine of Luginbilled, our special series on the music man of Eau Claire. My name is Tyler Haas. And sitting across the command center is Jodie Arnold. How are you?
Jodie: Oh, I'm good. I'm ready.
Tyler: Once more unto the breach?
Jodie: Once more. You want to hear a story?
Tyler: Tell me a story.
Jodie: Okay. I have gotten, and you've seen we've had a lot of people send us inquiries about Joe's titling himself social worker, caseworker, case manager. He's identified himself in this capacity of of a social worker, case worker-
Tyler: Savior of lost sheep.
Jodie: Hero of children. I had a lot of questions on that, and that was on my list of stuff to do. So we're doing it.
I wanted to start with, kind of a brief list of mentions in which Joe Luginbill identifies himself in some capacity, bios things like that, or new stories and we will, as always, have linked, you know, where this all came from. Joe is a certified child welfare caseworker through the UW Madison School of Social Work in Wisconsin Child Welfare Professional Development system. He has worked in child welfare for the Strengthening Families program and with migrant Children and families.
Joe: I was working with migrant families as well. In doing that, I was throughout multiple counties, was sometimes visiting the migrant labor camps and seeing what folks were needing-”
Jodie: Luginbill works for the Strengthening Families Program, where he's an advocate, working with Children and families in the Eau Claire county in western Wisconsin.
Joe: “-2016, when I was working as a caseworker with kids in foster care in Eau Claire…”
Jodie: Joe is a certified caseworker through the Wisconsin Child Welfare Professional Development System, WCWPDS and a certified mandated reporter through the UW Madison School of Social Work and WCWPDS.
Another one, when Joe Luginbill of the Luginbill Children's Foundation was a caseworker in Eau Claire, he said there were several young people aging out of foster care on his caseload, who expressed concerns for their future. Another one, training as a child welfare worker. Another one, “My background is in child welfare and charity leadership.” Another one, his advocacy has taken him to farm fields as a migrant family case manager, and to local courtrooms as a caseworker for children in foster care. Another one, Joe, has worked as a support professional for Children and families in the Chippewa Valley. His experience includes the Strengthening Families program and working with migrant families in western Wisconsin.
Tyler: Uh, Joe Luginbill was cast out of Krypton by his father, Kal-el, shortly before it was destroyed.
Jodie: Before we get started with his work, I want to explain quickly what the Strengthening Families Program is, because we hear it in almost every one of those mentions right.
“The Strengthening Families Program focuses on assisting Children and caregivers with independent living skills, parent education, supervised visitation and accessing community resources. The program offers education to help Children focus on money management, job skills, educational planning, legal skills, food, nutritional and health, to help children be successful in living independently. The program also assesses and monitors interactions between children and caregivers, one required to assure children have a safe living environment.”
Jodie: Okay, there are people who work for that program, including Joe--who did work for this program--they work for a mental health clinic in Eau Claire. This mental health clinic is one of many satellite clinics throughout the state. It is not the main location, but the site in Eau Clairee is the one that facilitates the Strengthening Families program for this area. So that's, that's the program that we're dealing with here. I talked to two different people who worked for this program. The first person I talked to back on August 25th, we're going to call him Adam. That's his actual first name. I realized I'm not going to say his last name, but that's his actual first name.
Tyler: Everyone else calls him Adam, too, but we will also be calling him Adam.
Jodie: When I talked to Adam, he said that their jobs are inherently hard to describe. Saying I'm a social worker for Eau Claire County, or just a social worker in general carries a different weight and is not appropriate for the work that they do.
Tyler: Right. Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society does a lot of the things a social worker would do, but it wouldn't be accurate, right?
Jodie: Did you see that movie?
Tyler: I think so. If that joke landed right, I must have.
Jodie: I was hoping you would say no. That would be really-
Jodie: What I wanted to come out of the gate with Is that Adam and Mark, who's the other person that I talked to-- Mark is not his actual first name-- did tell me that when they applied that they have college degrees and that they don't know of anybody else who works in this program that doesn't have that level of education.
Joe: “And I did have to do a caseworker certification to be a child welfare worker through the state, and I had to do that through a training program through UW, Madison and child welfare training.”
Jodie: That being said, another thing I've been told many times, and well, I've talked to professors from U W. Eau Claire, who had Joe in classes, that number one said he was not a very good student, and number two told me that, as far as they knew, he dropped out of school. Now I did try to verify any sort of college degree at Chippewa Valley Technical College and University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, and UW Stout, which he has mentioned, and the third party services that I was using would not verify that for me, so I don't know for sure. Anyway, it's not exactly the most important thing. You can certainly be qualified to do this kind of work with life experience. I just don't want to suggest that somebody isn't worthy of doing this program.
Tyler: Right. And maybe this is speculation to be picked up later. But do you think this is a job that doesn't necessarily require a college degree, although most of the employees have one, Joe didn't but still got hired. Or do you think he lied about it and got hired?
Jodie: When I talked to Mark, who we will get to, if you recall me mentioning the Wisconsin child welfare professional development system, the WCWPDS, those certifications and stuff when I was reading you this list in the beginning... The second person I interviewed told me that, that is the training that's done for the Strengthening Families program. It's standard pre-service training. For this, quote, “All you have to do is watch videos and answer questions at the end. It's pretty standard new job stuff.”
Tyler: This is something... training you get when you get hired there? Not, like a separate, you need to have this-
Jodie: So that's what that was. He mentions this in a couple of different spots as this education, which number one, suggests it's something special. It adds a certain weight to it.
Tyler: Did you happen to ask Mark if that's a certification he would use? Like would he put that on his resume?
Jodie: Oh, I didn't ask him that, but I don't think-
Tyler: His tone of voice suggested an answer.
Jodie: Yeah. So let's rewind back to Adam. I don't want to confuse anybody. I only brought Mark up because I did want to clarify-
Tyler: And not to confuse anybody. One of them's name is real, the other one is not.
Jodie: What's interesting about Adam, he was a co-worker of Joe's. So Joe started in 2016 for the Strengthening Families Program. A coworker in this capacity is not exactly the same as an office job because you shared an office space. But a lot of times you were out doing stuff, so it's not like they sat and had lunch together. But they were coworkers of the program.
Jodie: So on Joe, Adam said this: “He looked like a great idea on paper.”
Jodie: When Joe started, everyone liked him. For the most part, they quote, “treated him like he was the second coming of Christ.”
Now Adam always thought that Joe was pretty fake and off. In his estimations, he said that everything seemed pretty calculated and like he was using that job to move up politically., Adam could have done this podcast.
So Joe's job mostly involves doing supervised visits ordered by the court. He would tell Adam how he was spending his own money and bringing pizza to these visits, which Adam found to be really strange and totally unnecessary.
Tyler: Okay. I don't... I'm not confused, but I am. There's a lot of open questions here, like, so he's supervising court ordered visits?
Tyler: So, like a parent to their child, and then Joe's there, and Joe shows up with pizza.
Jodie: Yeah. Now this does-
Tyler: Okay. I understand completely.
Jodie: Now, this does come up later on. So just remember, seems like you will.
Tyler: Yeah, like a burn on the roof of your mouth, this one will hang around. Okay.
Jodie: So remember that, because it does come up okay. Coworkers eventually started to talk about Joe's net worth. They looked him up at some point, and see that his net worth is 2.5 million dollars. Now, that's not, I don't know where that comes from to be honest with you-
Tyler: We’ve spoken about it a little bit, in terms of in regards to Joe.
Jodie: Yeah, there's celebrity salaries dot com or whatever. You know, in any case, they start talking about his net worth, and they're wondering why somebody his age, with this sort of net worth would be doing this work.
Tyler: I'm trying to put myself in their shoes. This is a guy who is gonna be the next Mr. Rogers, right? That's why he's doing that.
Jodie: Well, that certainly does come up here.
Jodie: Yep. On one hand, you could say it doesn't matter how much money you have. You want to do something good. Or you might think, as Adam thought, he's using this job experience for resume building and political gains.
Tyler: Uh, great, like, prescient foresight by this guy, Adam, because everything that's going to come in the years after, like, that hasn't happened yet, and Adam saw it all coming.
Jodie: Well, Joe lasts at this job around a year. He puts in his two weeks notice, and during that two weeks of time, he shows up for work, maybe once or twice.
Tyler: ...Just a phone ringing from one desk all day.
Jodie: He tells Adam that he's leaving his job with the Strengthening Families program because he was getting offered the job to be the next Mr Rogers.
Tyler: That... I mean, it's not like I don't think he wouldn’t, like, bullshit to somebody for his own reputation's sake. That sounds like he thought it was gonna happen. And he's like, Dude, I'm gonna be the next Mr Rogers.
Jodie: Let's put a pin in how I want to answer that. I'm going to talk about that on the bonus episode. I think it will make sense to you, my theory on it. He also told Adam he had to take a few days off to go to the United Nations and accept the nomination for something he'd gotten. He also said he met John Kerry in this capacity.
When I was talking to Adam, he mentions to me that he is friends with Mark, who happens to be the person that replaces Joe after Joe leaves the Strengthening Families program. Mark starts with the Strengthening Families program in 2017. Well, here's the interesting thing about Mark. You would think, in a job like this, when you take over for somebody, you would be literally taking over for somebody. They would have families that you would then be assuming the role, because a lot of-
Tyler: If you’re doing supervised visits, it’s probably like doing it on a long term basis.
Jodie: Yeah, and depending on what the other needs are, you know, you might be connected with the family for over a year and have a case open on them. So what happened in this case is that he didn't take over Joe's caseload, as Joe had closed all of his cases when he left. Mark said it's very unusual to close out all of your cases like that. What are the chances that when you leave magically everybody you have been in contact with through your job does not require any more help?
But there is one family that had been on Joe's caseload, and they reemerge and become part of Mark's caseload because-
Tyler: They were a close case that became reopened?
Jodie: Yes. I'm sure what happens is, they contact somebody and say, oh, we're looking for the service and they look them up and go, oh, well, I see you’re closed. I guess we will reopen that and Mark will be taking over for Joe. The notes on that family were very sparse, according to Mark, because you need to take notation when you have contact with these families. Joe's notes, according to Mark, we're not a good example of what typical case notes should look like, quote, “His notes were so bad it was frustrating. They barely said anything to be honest.”
Mark had issues with that family because they actually loved working with Joe, and very much preferred him over Mark. Why? Because they got free stuff from Joe all the time. Mark said he would never pay for something in the sphere of his job without getting reimbursement for it, which I think is how most people would feel about it.
Tyler: Also, that means Joe is not only doing that, but I guess then making sure to mention that he's personally paying for it, because that's what this family understands. Can you just imagine, like being the new guy, and they’re like, where's the pizza?
Jodie: I think it will make sense to you why that happened when we talk about it for the bonus episode. So like I said-
Tyler: But as far as Mark’s concerned, this family is not happy with what he's-
Jodie: Which sucks.
Tyler: Yeah, yeah.
Jodie: After Joe left, Mark had witness to the aftermath of Joe leaving, and him coming into the job. So he heard things about Joe after Joe left, which is also not completely strange. There was talk about him being a millionaire, and some of the staff watched his cooking videos. What's interesting is that most of the people in the office had no idea that he had this other very exciting life, you know. A lot of the people thought he was really great, but there were people who felt like he always had higher ambitions and acted like a politician. So that's just kind of echoing some of the same stuff that Adam said about it.
Jodie: Here's something that's really interesting to me that Mark and I talked about. When Joe was at the Strengthening Families program, he had been talking about these ideas he had to build a home for homeless youth kids that were under the age of 18. Now that would have needed to be listed as a residential facility, and that's a lot of licensing. So when Joe discovered this, he then shifted his idea to the independent living situation for kids aging out of the foster care system. Mark is assuming, because that was much less red tape.
Because now, can you imagine? Think of the Smile House episode, which I believe it's Episode three and Episode six. He could tell people, you know, Mother Teresa's foundation was giving this money, all of these things, because it was not like a residential care facility. If you are going to become a residential care facility, you can't bluff your way through all of this stuff, you have to actually do the work, have money for it. You have to get all kinds of licensing. You can't have volunteers staffing it overnight. It has to be a very professional, safe licensed environment.
There is no way that Joe Luginbill had the money or the resources to do anything like that. So he switches his idea to the kids aging out of the foster care system, because that was a lot less red tape for him.
Tyler: Yeah, when you're dealing with legal adults, then it's, well, I don't know what you would call it, like a community like sort of center for like-
Jodie: Yeah, kind of like independent living. So he modified his great vision. One of the things I read to you in the beginning, when Joe Luginbill of the Luginbill Children's Foundation was a caseworker in Eau Claire, he said there were several young people aging out of foster care on his caseload, who expressed concerns for their future. I don't know if that's true or not. All I know is that was not his original idea, but it became his idea because that was easier.
So that's the story of Joe's time with the Strengthening Families program.
Tyler: Okay, now, cause you said a lot at the top in terms of what he has said about his... how much does the Strengthening Families program make up what he is referencing when he says he worked-
Jodie: Uh, other than what, that migrant Children and families program is, all of it.
Jodie: So that's part of what I'm gonna get to in the bonus episode. All I'll say is it worked greatly to his advantage to have this listed on his resume, so.
Jodie: I will tell you that I had this on my docket, and a listener reached out to me and got me a connection. And that's why this is a story. So if you have something that you don't think it's a big deal or you have something and you know it's a big deal, either way, send us a message and-
Tyler: It really does feel like, uh from where we started, it feels like we have all these disparate pieces and, and little by little, the cracks are being filled in like, oh, here's the part where he was like, eeggh, kids, and then you could see the wheels turn. Wow.
Jodie: So I hope that answers and satisfies, you know, some curiosities that people have about this listed experience, and what the reality of that looked like. We are going to continue this conversation in a more speculative manner on a bonus episode that you can access if you become a Patreon sponsor.
Tyler: Yeah, you can find that at patreon dot com slash cool and unusual punishment. P A T R E O N.
Jodie: Yeah, and that funds our records requests and whatever else we've got going on. So we appreciate it and-
Tyler: All the pizza that I have to bring to this to keep you happy.
Jodie: So thanks for listening.
Tyler: Luginbilled is presented by Cool and Unusual Punishment. Research and interviews by Jodie Arnold. This episode was edited and mixed by me, Tyler Haas. music by Goldie Shine, Sungjae Kim, Rick Dickert, John Wright, Emilio Marone, and AG Music. Special thanks this week to Adam and Mark for speaking with us. Our website, where you can find more episodes, as well as links to the materials we reference, is the world's greatest podcast dot com.