The 2022 conference was a tremendous success at our new venue, the Hilton Easton, and PCSAO was pleased to present awards to outstanding youth, families, advocates, and agency staff.
Below you will find more information about each of these inspirational awardees. Congratulations to all of our award winners!
In honor of the conference and Child Welfare Worker Appreciation Week, Gov. Mike DeWine recorded this message for children services caseworkers attending the conference.
Legislators of the Year
These awards recognize outstanding leadership – and action – by legislators on issues impacting children and families served by the children services system.
Rep. Tavia Galonski
Tavia Galonski represents Ohio’s 35th district, which includes Barberton and parts of Akron. She was appointed to her seat in May 2017 and has since won two elections for full terms.
Rep. Galonski started her career as a flight attendant with Delta Airlines. She continued to work full time as a flight attendant while attending, and graduating from, the University of Akron School of Law.
Before coming to the state legislature, Rep. Galonski served as a magistrate in Summit County courts for over 15 years, including in the Court of Common Pleas, the Domestic Relations Court, and most recently, as magistrate of the Juvenile Court.
Rep. Galonski is focused on using her legal expertise and work experience to address the biggest challenges facing the state. She serves on key House committees including the House Criminal Justice Committee, the Government Oversight Committee, the State and Local Government Committee, and as Ranking Member on the House Civil Justice Committee. A number of bills affecting children services come before these committees, and we appreciate that Rep. Galonski always has an open door to listen to questions, concerns, and suggestions on legislation.
We are honoring Rep. Galonski as a 2022 legislator of the year because of her commitment to Ohio’s children and families. (Pictured with Summit County Children Services Executive Director Cassandra Holtzmann.)
Rep. Susan Manchester
Susan Manchester is serving her second term in the Ohio House. She represents the 84th District, which includes Mercer County as well as portions of Auglaize, Darke and Shelby counties.
Growing up on the family farm in Waynesfield, Ohio, Rep. Manchester went on to graduate from The Ohio State University.
Prior to being elected to the House, Rep. Manchester worked in Washington, DC, for Congressman Jim Jordan, where she focused on policies such as agriculture, health care, business and education. Upon returning to Ohio in 2016, Manchester took a position with a nonprofit organization focused on mentoring kids.
Rep. Manchester is a very hands-on legislator. Early on in her first term, she did a ridealong with a children services caseworker in Auglaize County, reaching out to her district and learning from local leaders. Several PCSA directors in her district have shared that the representative has visited their agency and continues to check in regularly.
Those experiences and insights shape her work in Columbus, where she serves on several key House committees, including health and primary and secondary education. As chair of the House Families, Aging, and Human Services Committee, Rep. Manchester works hard to make sure that all views are heard — for children services, especially the youth voice. You worked tirelessly to make sure that the final ombudsman office proposal reflected input from youth, agencies, and other advocates. More recently, she hosted PCSAO’s legislative briefing this past May.
PCSAO is pleased to recognize Rep. Susan Manchester as a 2022 Legislator of the Year. (Pictured with Auglaize County Job & Family Services Director Julie Gossard.)
Child Advocate of the Year
Robin Reese, Executive Director, Lucas County Children Services
This award recognizes an outstanding advocate for children and families, someone who embodies a spirit of determination for enhancing our system by improving the outcomes we achieve for those we serve. This award has recognized individuals and organizations that have partnered and advocated with PCSAO to impact the state budget, legislative changes, new program implementation, and have provided a strong voice for change.
This year’s PCSAO Child Advocate of the Year award to Robin Reese, Executive Director of Lucas County Children Services.
Robin first joined Lucas County Children Services in 1984, rising from caseworker to manager of the Placement Department in 1988. After being named executive director in 2016, Robin guided the agency through state and federal changes in child protection practice and funding; stabilized the agency’s finances by passing several tax levies; and maintained child protection standards during the COVID-19 pandemic. She launched an ambitious foster home recruitment campaign, achieved reaccreditation, and established a diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative, with the long-term goal of reducing the disproportionate number of Black children in the child protection system.
Beyond her work in Lucas County, Robin has been a staunch advocate for Ohio’s children, families and our children services system. At meetings, agency directors will often wait to hear what Robin is going to say. She is not afraid to push back even with those in leadership positions, such as the ODJFS State Director, the Governor’s Office, or with her legislators. She does it with grace, passion, and sometimes in a mic drop fashion. She has witnessed, and often states, that when another system – such as juvenile justice, developmental disabilities, or mental health – reforms, the impact of that reform often falls on the children services system. She has advocated with PCSAO on several state budgets including traveling to Columbus for the last two budgets to provide testimony on why more funding is needed for Ohio’s children services system. She has hosted ride alongs with caseworkers for Lucas County’s legislators and reporters so that they can experience what it is like in the field, every day. She partnered with PCSAO and advocated with U.S. Senator Brown to provide relief to Title IV-E waiver counties when the Family First Act passed.
Robin has served on many statewide panels, and frequently advised Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and his staff on child welfare matters, in particular through her appointment to the Governor’s Children Services Transformation Advisory Council and serving as one of five counties for the ODJFS Family First Prevention Services Pilot. Robin was also appointed to the Ohio Department of Medicaid’s OhioRISE Advisory Council, adding the voice of child welfare as this specialty managed care program was being developed.
Robin has been a strong voice within the association and on the Board of Trustees. She challenged the Board in May 2020 to develop its own child welfare modernization plan, and for this reason, PCSAO has been focused for the last two years on implementing the 2021-2022 Strategic Modernization Plan. She has loaned and encouraged her staff to participate on PCSAO’s committees and initiatives including the Rules Committee, Ohio START, previous Dues and Investment Committees, the Community Education Committee, Race Equity Learning Community, Shared Practice Model Development Group, and the Tiered Treatment Foster Care Workgroup.
But more than anything, Robin is a fierce advocate for children and families, determined to reduce trauma and separation, reduce the use of congregate care, and address social injustice wherever she sees it. She is beloved by her staff, her community, her fellow directors and trustees, the Department, and the staff here at PCSAO.
When she retires next month, the children services system will lose one of its most tenured and impressive advocates – although we suspect that she will begin advocating for change from the outside! For this and many other reasons, PCSAO is pleased to recognize Robin Reese as the 2022 Child Advocate of the Year.
Families of the Year
PCSAO’s Family of the Year awards recognize families who are making a difference in the lives of children involved in the child protection system. They may be foster or adoptive families, kinship caregivers, or primary or biological families who have dedicated their lives, opened their homes, and overcome challenges to ensure safety and permanence for children.
Lisa Bible, Carroll County
Lisa Bible of Carroll County is selfless, caring, patient, kind, and loving. At first, she was just babysitting her neighbor’s four children. In May 2021, due to her strong bond with them, the kids were placed in her care when they could no longer live at home. A year later, she received legal custody of all four children and has never looked back. She is now a single caretaker for them plus her own two children.
The two youngest kids are aged 2 and 4. Lisa caught them up on their vaccines and enrolled them in pre-school, securing Early Intervention services for the youngest. She took the two oldest children to specialists, counseling, and mentoring services to ensure they were getting everything they needed. Lisa plans birthday parties for all her kids and ensures they get a memorable one. She even bought a larger car so that she can fit all the children and is looking to buy a bigger house to better meet the children’s needs.
The kids’ caseworker noted that she believes Lisa’s dedication and love for the children has allowed them to feel loved, comforted, and safe. She has seen the children go from scared and introverted to happy children, always having smiles on their face when she visits. Lisa’s welcoming arms have allowed these kids to grow exponentially in just a year, and there is no doubt that they won’t continue to do so because of Lisa. PCSAO is pleased to recognize Lisa Bible and her children as a 2022 Family of the Year.
Vince & Yolanda Cantu, Defiance County
Vince & Yolanda Cantu of Defiance County have been licensed foster parents for more than 16 years, an invaluable resource for their agency. They have welcomed and impacted a multitude of children, whether it be long term or on an emergency basis. This family has put their personal needs and desires aside to do whatever it takes to offer children a safe and welcoming environment.
The Cantus have strong family values and ensure that when a child enters their home, they instantly become family, regardless of how long they stay. They go beyond caring just for the children, welcoming the children’s families into their lives by encouraging continued communication and visits. They understand and value the importance of supporting families, and the children’s biological families have stated their appreciation for them.
Vince & Yolanda lead Hebron Ministries and help oversee a homeless shelter in Defiance. In 2017, the family moved into the Jacob-Eaton House, a county home that serves youth under 18. They have 15 children living there with them, 11 of whom they have adopted. They truly are a one-of-a-kind family and have changed the lives of countless children. PCSAO is pleased to recognize Vince & Yolanda Cantu and their children as a 2022 Family of the Year.
Steffani Gibson & Kyle Eby, Hardin County
This is the story of two different people, with two different cases, in two different counties – who found each other and have created a life of recovery for themselves and love and stability for their blended family. After Steffani engaged in counseling, substance use services, and completed family recovery court successfully, she regained custody of her children but asked that the case remain open to allow her to deliver her third child with support from her service providers and the agency.
Kyle’s child was placed with children services while he was incarcerated and then completed a program at Western Ohio Regional Treatment and Habilitation Center. He was engaged in mental health services and substance use services with Urban Minority Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Outreach Program until the men’s sober living home closed with minimal warning. Kyle then became homeless until moving in with Steffani, her children, and Steffani’s mother.
Together, the family has had to overcome stressors throughout the life of their individual cases. They find support in each other and continue to encourage each other in their success. They both use community resources to ensure their children get what they need and stay engaged in social activities as well. They now have a daughter together and are on the hunt to move out of Stefani’s mother’s house and find a home of their own. They are wonderful examples of resilience, recovery, overcoming obstacles, and hard work. PCSAO is pleased to recognize Steffani Gibson and Kyle Eby and their children as a 2022 Family of the Year.
Cory & Heather Mason, Fairfield County
The Masons have been foster parents in Fairfield County since 2019, and in that time have officially had placement of nine youth in agency custody. Their effort and commitment to the families they work alongside, though, goes much deeper than that. They take every opportunity to spread the word of the need for more foster parents, particularly those willing to have older children placed in their home.
This family maintains relationships with teens who have previously left their home. For example, a young woman left agency custody while expecting her first child, but with few supports in the community. Her fear was that continued engagement with Protective Services would result in her child being removed, but she trusted the Masons to the point of moving in with them after the birth of her child. The mother decided she wasn’t ready to be a full-time parent, so she and the Masons made a plan for her to give them custody, which also enables her to maintain a significant relationship with her son.
The Masons’ willingness to work with older children, their ability to create connections with birth families, and their partnerships with the staff at Protective Services all combine to highlight a family worthy of recognition and acknowledgement. PCSAO is pleased to recognize Cory & Heather Mason and their children as a 2022 Family of the Year.
Shari Smith, Trumbull County
When Shari entered Family Dependency Treatment Court in 2017, she was open to suggestions, willing to do the work, and believed that a life in recovery with her family was possible. She demonstrated strong engagement in the 12-step community during her court involvement and even developed her own 12-step group for women called “Fight Club” that exists to this day. She faced obstacles and hardships and had to make difficult decisions along the way. In every case she used her resources to ensure the best outcomes for her and her family.
She is now a positive force in the Trumbull County recovery community, sponsoring other women and growing her skills to help others with their sobriety. She now has several years’ experience providing Family Peer Support for a county agency.
Shari now has a family of three children and has reconnected with her oldest child, who is in the agency’s permanent custody, visiting with her and playing a part in her life. Shari is selfless, making decisions she knows are best for her children, and overcoming obstacles to be in their lives. PCSAO is pleased to recognize Shari Smith and her children as a 2022 Family of the Year.
Leaders of Tomorrow
This year we reimagined our Rising Up and Moving On awards and renamed them Leaders of Tomorrow. We want to recognize youth who had contact with our system and who, despite their circumstances, demonstrate growth, resiliency, and leadership.
Christopher, Miami County
Chris is compassionate, trustworthy, kind, and has deep empathy for others. He is not only an advocate for himself, but advocates for others as well. For example, he advocated for himself to get a driver’s license, even when Miami County, at the time, did not allow kids to get one until they emancipated. He did this by writing a letter to the state to request changes. While advocating for himself, he took the initiative to reach out to county commissioners and the director of Miami County Job and Family Services to ask how this could be a long-term possibility for future foster children. In his advocacy efforts, he talked about the barriers created by not being able to obtain a license, including how it affects youth in maintaining employment or attending required appointments. He is a role model to the other youth and has created a positive path for other foster kids to be successful.
Additionally, Christopher achieved his goal of a career in construction after graduating high school with honors. After shadowing Ferguson Construction, he was offered a full-time position with the company. The owner was so impressed with his work that he received an award from Ferguson and had the honor of meeting the Lieutenant Governor and others from the state.
Currently, Christopher has an apartment and maintains relationships with his former caseworker, his aunt and uncle, and has support from his girlfriend and her parents. PCSAO is pleased to present Christopher of Miami County with a 2022 Leaders of Tomorrow award.
Yasmin, Franklin County
Yasmin is known for her tenacity and drive to achieve her goals. While facing many barriers and becoming homeless at 16, she has not let those barriers get in the way of her success. She has a strong desire to make a difference by working with youth who have had similar hardships, enrolling herself at Columbus State Community College to study social work to become a mental health counselor.
In addition to attending school, Yasmin is employed and participates in the Ohio Bridges Program, Youth Build, and the Impact Community Action Achieve More and Prosper Program, showcasing her drive as someone who decides every day to keep working toward her goals and dreams. She continues to learn and help her community as much as possible, hoping to help others in the future.
PCSAO is pleased to present Yasmin of Franklin County with a 2022 Leaders of Tomorrow award.
Jaylyn, Lorain County
Jaylyn is creative, kind and compassionate. She actively seeks to help others and has made a positive impact in the community. For example, while at camp, Jaylyn demonstrated a tremendous amount of responsibility and adaptability. She always took initiative to clean up at the end of the camp day, doing dishes or wiping off tables. Additionally, Jaylyn has been a great leader for the campers. She is always willing to lend a listening ear, jump into conversations, and create a positive camp environment. She is a role model, and others often look up to her.
Additionally, while in school, Jaylyn was in an Animal Care Internship class. This class requires the students to work in the Fieldstone Farm barn caring for horses and taking care of general maintenance. While other students may have taken a day or two off during the cold weather, Jaylynn did not.
She was a constant fixture in the barn each morning, ensuring the animals were taken care of and showcasing her compassion and empathy for others. She also served as a positive role model for elementary students taking part in riding lessons at Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center. She took part in this volunteer work with her normal passion, dedication, and hard work. The elementary students and the Fieldstone Farm staff loved her presence in the classroom and barn.
Finally, Jaylyn was also a member of a student leadership group, Youth Led Prevention. This group met weekly to think of ways they could positively impact other students. One of their tasks was to write positive greeting cards to hand out to students before winter break. Jaylyn was instrumental with the initiation of this idea and the follow through as well. Later in the school year, Jaylynn led an activity in which students constructed their own therapeutic Zen Garden. PCSAO is pleased to present Jaylyn of Lorain County with a 2022 Leaders of Tomorrow award.
Buck, Summit County
Buck is known for his glowing personality, often lighting up the room with his positive attitude. He’s been described as a comedian and as someone who is compassionate and caring. Despite past and current challenges, he is full of energy and positivity, striving to lead by example.
Currently a sophomore in high school, Buck plays football as an offensive lineman and continues to work hard on his grades. He also has an array of hobbies including creative writing, drawing, chess, cornhole, yo-yo tricks, fishing, and working with modeling clay.
Due to his positive personality and positive impact on the people he interacts with, Buck was also the recipient of the Youth Achievement Award at the Summit County Children Services Annual Appreciation Breakfast. Buck leads through example and is a role model to others, especially his sister, letting her know that she can do anything she puts her mind to. PCSAO is pleased to present Buck of Summit County with a 2022 Leaders of Tomorrow award.
Outstanding Agency Staff
PCSAO’s staff awards recognize a caseworker, a supervisor and a support staff at a public children services agency who go beyond expectations and achieve extraordinary outcomes for children and families through their work in the agency and in the community.
Outstanding Caseworker of the Year: Lea Fisher, Fairfield County Job & Family Services
The PCSAO 2022 Child Protection Worker of the Year has been called a “silent superstar” and goes above and beyond for the families she works with. She is known for taking the time to build relationships with the families she supports by learning their strengths and understanding the barriers they face to best support them. Because of this, her families state that she is their biggest support and the person they can trust the most. Even in times when this worker has had to make difficult decisions for the families, the parents have not let the decisions impact their relationship with her due to their trust in her. For example, she had to place a child outside the home, and was able to maintain a relationship with the parents since they trusted her. This is not an unusual story. She is consistent in her families’ lives, and she always does what she says she will do for them. This caseworker always does what is right, not what is easy.
At the agency, this worker is an active participant in different committees including the SAFE Committee. Alongside a supervisor and a manager, she is developing better policy for when the agency obtains custody of a child. She also helps co-workers often, has amazing time management skills, and is praised by everyone she interacts with in the community. She currently serves as an EPIC worker, engaging directly with families whose primary reason for involvement with protective services is co-occurring substance use disorder and child maltreatment.
This worker is reliable, trustworthy, and does amazing work with families. She makes a difference every single day. She positively impacts her families, co-workers and community. PCSAO is pleased to present the 2022 Child Protection Worker of the Year award to Lea Fisher of Fairfield County Job & Family Services.
Outstanding Supervisor of the Year: Sara Tillman, Union County Job & Family Services
This supervisor embodies what it means to be a social worker. She has worked in children services for 23 years and has dedicated her life to what she has described as a “calling.” This person has worn many hats while in the agency, including completing ongoing case work, being a lead worker, and training new staff as well as stepping in as an interim supervisor for multiple units. She has also been E-track training liaison, Title IV-E specialist and is currently serving as the Ongoing Supervisor.
This supervisor could be described as a Swiss army knife. Her expertise, knowledge, grace and respect far exceed her job description. She has a way of being direct with clients, yet respectful so that they understand what is being asked of them, with no surprises. She is known well by community stakeholders and has been able to tackle some of the most difficult situations when it comes to advocating for children within the community. One of her greatest strengths lies in her ability to connect with staff. She has been able to navigate tension-ridden situations with the local school district to advocate for fair and equitable treatment of a foster child. She always goes to bat for what she believes in.
This supervisor is also an innovator who can lean on her experience in child protection to help guide caseworkers. She has shown her out-of-the-box thinking by suggesting the use of a camera in the home of a parent who was on the brink of earning unsupervised time, but the agency wanted to also ensure safety of the child prior to allowing full-time unsupervised visits.
PCSAO is pleased to present the 2022 Child Protection Supervisor of the Year award to Sara Tillman of Union County Job & Family Services.
Outstanding Support Staff of the Year: Lori Legge, Champaign County Job & Family Services
This staff member is outstanding at providing support to caseworkers so that they can focus on continued assessment of safety and risk. She is able to work independently but is also accepting of and constructive with feedback from workers and supervisors. She stays on top of assignments to ensure that clients receive what they need, and that workers are supported in their goals for case progression. She often locates new services to assist families, shares them with all social services workers, and is very diligent in assisting families with overcoming barriers to providing safety and stability.
This staff member is approachable by caseworkers and clients; she uses empathy to communicate with clients but is also able to motivate and provide a realistic depiction of case circumstances. She is accommodating and respectful of agency clients and providers – always willing to work around a client’s schedule. In fact, she often hand-delivers paperwork and offers assistance with completion. She is accepting of people from all walks of life, demonstrating kindness and respect to all people.
This worker always exhibits an optimistic outlook regarding case outcomes. She encourages clients to remain engaged in their case plans and is consistently searching for services to address barriers. Her positivity is contagious. As an advocate, she is genuine in her communication. She has received several accolades from clients and foster care providers. The agency has received survey responses detailing the many ways in which she has gone above and beyond to accommodate families. The agency has also received compliments from foster parents regarding her thorough case management and ability to connect with youth in agency custody.
This support staff demonstrates hard work and dedication to the agency’s mission as she contributes to a positive public image of child protection. She makes it her mission to serve others to the best of her ability. PCSAO is pleased to present the 2022 Child Protection Support Staff of the Year award to Lori Legge of Champaign County Job & Family Services.
Outstanding Supervisor of the Year: Jenn Selders, Coshocton County Job & Family Services
For our next award, we want to recognize a top-notch supervisor we lost this past year, Jenn Selders of Coshocton County.
Jenn began her career at Coshocton County Job and Family Services in 1999. She started as an Ongoing Caseworker and was the Ongoing Supervisor at the time of her passing. Over the years she held many positions at the agency, including intake investigator, family meeting facilitator, intake screener/IV-E caseworker, and intensive-home based caseworker.
Jenn used to say she wasn’t a “lifer” at Children Services, but over the years she realized this was her passion. She joked that she was asked for a two-year commitment during her initial interview in 1999. She said yes but never intended to stay that long. Fast forward to 2022, by which time she had dedicated 23 years to serving vulnerable children and families in Coshocton County.
She had a special way of engaging with people and developing relationships with clients, staff members and other professionals in the community.
Jenn showed dedication to her clients as well as to her staff. It was not uncommon for her previous clients to continue to reach out to her for guidance several months after she closed the case. Families knew she cared about them and would try to point them in the right direction even if she wasn’t currently involved. She would do home visits at 6am or work until midnight if the job called for the extra hours. Jenn would do what needed to be done to ensure the best interests of children were met.
Jenn could not have done this job without the understanding and support of her daughter, Brittany, and her parents, Don and Becky. Here are just a couple quotes from staff members and community professionals regarding what Jenn meant to them.
“Jenn was the heart of JFS. The years she spent honing her trade in multiple positions at JFS did not embitter her but rather made her more determined to keep our children safe and valued and loved with families, whether it was with parents, kinship, foster parents, or through adoption.
She taught me that Every Child, Every Family, Every Time was worth the effort of the extra home visit, the extra meeting, the extra phone call. Jenn’s life’s work and integrity will not be forgotten in the lives of Children she has saved, families she has restored, and in the hearts of her friends and colleagues whom she has inspired.”
“She is absolutely irreplaceable. She was so good at her job. I am still in awe at how she managed to know every single detail about every single case. There is a hole at the agency that may never be filled.”
Jenn was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January of this year. Jenn continued to work when she felt up to it until April. Jenn always asked about “her Girls” and how they were doing. She built a great unit and worried about letting them down while she was off work. PCSAO is pleased to present a 2022 Supervisor of the Year Award to the late Jenn Selders.
Dan Schneider Award for Leadership in Training
As the first full-time director of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO) in 1987, Dan Schneider (1951-2003) spent a lifetime advocating for children and families in Ohio. His vision of excellence in the training of child welfare professionals helped shape the formation of the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program. Begun in 2003, the Dan Schneider Award is presented annually at the PCSAO conference to an individual who reflects Dan’s commitment to improving the lives of Ohio’s children and families by providing unwavering support for the professional development of Ohio’s child welfare staff toward best-practice ideals.
This year’s award was presented to Lucas County Children Services Executive Director Robin Reese.