Agency staff honored for outstanding service to children, families
A caseworker, supervisor and support staff from three county children services agencies were recognized at today’s conference awards luncheon for going above and beyond expectations to provide high-quality services to the community.
Roy Lutz, Warren County Children Services
Outstanding Child Protection Worker of the Year
Our child protection system asks a lot of its caseworkers: Managing the delicate balance between home life and work life, particularly when the caseworker is a parent; identifying and securing resources for struggling families; facing challenging situations above and beyond child abuse and neglect, such as domestic violence; staying on top of mounds of paperwork and reporting requirements; and regularly adapting to new rules and new initiatives. This year’s Child Protection Worker of the Year manages to do all of that and more.
A former parole/probation officer, this worker has been in the field only two years. In that time, he has helped his county roll out alternative response and led his peers in client engagement and facilitation. Driven by his own experience as a witness to intimate partner violence and as a “little brother” in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program, he immersed himself in Safe & Together training to better serve his clients and is recruiting “bigs” for children on his caseload. Whether donating his own fishing pole to a family, warehousing needed supplies, securing a pro bono attorney for a mom wrongly accused of endangerment, or purchasing gift cards at Christmas when a donation sponsor failed to follow through, this caseworker regularly goes above and beyond for children and families. He educates the court and school districts on AR, and went on TV to discuss the need for Big Brothers.
His commitment to his coworkers is admirable, too. They go to him for advice. He accompanies them on dangerous investigations and volunteers for new assignments. His enthusiasm for his job, for learning new ways to serve families, and for getting the best possible outcomes for children is contagious. Somehow, on top of all of this, he manages to be a wonderful father to his three children.
Travina Adams, Hamilton County Job and Family Services
Outstanding Child Protection Support Staff of the Year
To meet this year’s support staff of the year is to feel as if you’ve known her forever. She makes everyone she meets feel immediately comfortable. As a support specialist in the permanency section of her agency, she excels at coordinating adoption recruitment events. These events are where first impressions – both for the kids and for the agency – are crucial. She organizes outings for the kids and adults to give them an opportunity for structured interaction in a relaxed environment.
Among her creative ideas for low-pressure visits: she has them decorate cupcakes together at a local culinary school, tour an outdoor nature center, and pet sharks at an aquarium. Not only has the number of such events increased under her leadership in the last two years, but attendance has improved as well. One couple drove all the way from Florida to attend an event based solely on speaking with this staff person and feeling a connection with her – and they’re now fostering with the intent to adopt!
She is always coming up with new ideas for recruitment, from a beauty salon day for a dozen girls that garnered local media attention, to free tickets to arts events that grew into the Arts in Healing initiative engaging youth in foster care in arts experiences that promote recovery from trauma. Not one child walks in the door at an event who isn’t greeted by her with open arms. Even the most jaded teenager in the bunch responds to her request for a “friendship hug.” One reason is that these youth know that she has been where they are. This staffer was in foster care herself and became a teen mom while in agency care. She bonded with her foster mother, graduated from high school, and earned a college degree. Today, she is happy to speak about her past, believing that by telling her story she can help change public impressions about foster care – and of course possibly recruit foster or adoptive parents.
Stacey Bergstrom, Fairfield County Job and Family Services
Outstanding Child Protection Supervisor of the Year
When it comes to child protection, casework supervisors are the linchpin for keeping an agency on track, maintaining caseworker productivity, and ensuring that children and families are receiving case management services that lead to the best possible outcomes. Our supervisor of the year exemplifies all of those qualities.
She is professional, accessible, and solution focused. With less than two years as a supervisor under her belt, she has a direct communication style that stresses transparency. A natural mentor and coach, she sits with staff as they complete documentation for the first time, shadows staff in the field, and sets clear expectations. Her strong bond with her caseworkers is matched only by her compassionate approach to families. Furthermore, she is viewed by community stakeholders as a consummate professional and expert in the field. A magistrate in her county writes that she “has always personified the type of caseworker and supervisor others look up to and attempt to emulate.” As a leader on the Child Abuse Prevention Month Committee, she engaged community members, coordinated outreach events, and even appeared on local radio shows.
Before becoming a supervisor, she served as an ongoing caseworker. She was keenly aware of the frustrations families often have with protective services agencies, not to mention the barriers they face because of the lack of community resources. She immediately put in place a policy of excellence in customer service, setting high expectations for treating families with respect. She developed tip sheets for providing best practices and staying within mandated responsibilities. She created an environment of timely, accurate documentation. Caseworkers gained confidence, and families began to partner more closely with their worker to develop solutions.
According to her director, this supervisor’s “calm demeanor and consistent professional attitude under any circumstances are attributes that really make her stand out from the rest.”