DSAS social worker wins Ohio Adult Protective Services Worker of the Year

By: Dr. Richard Jones, Administrator, Division of Senior and Adult Services

March is National Social Work Month and we have a lot to celebrate in Cuyahoga County. As part of our mission to help our residents thrive at every age and stage of life, the Department of Health and Human Services employees approximately 2300 people. They include licensed social workers, child protection specialists, adult protection workers, adoption coordinators, eligibility specialists, case workers, counselors and more. Whether they work directly with clients or in an administrative capacity behind the scenes, together we protect the vulnerable, spark opportunities to build a better future, and invest in strong families and communities.

No one embodies that more than this year’s Ohio Adult Protective Services Worker of the Year, Lance McElrath. In his role at the Division of Senior and Adult Services Lance investigates possible incidents of abuse or neglect of seniors and adults with disabilities, and identifies services to help them live with safety and dignity.

“Lance is genuinely a compassionate, dedicated and caring soul,” said Natasha Pietrocola, Deputy Administrator, Division of Senior and Adult Services. “He cares so much more about his clients than just completing a mandate, he wants to ensure quality of life is always paramount to any case he is involved with and that a human being is safe and given dignity in how they are treated. Lance has never cowered away from a challenging case and on many occasion has been willing to accept some of the most difficult cases we see at our agency.”

Lance reflects in his behavior and practice all of the characteristics we seek in an outstanding Social Worker. He is highly skilled and utilizes best practices as he engages all client populations; he is passionate about the work and always bases his decision on the standards , values and practices that govern the Social Work profession; he respects all of his clients and allows them to maintain a high level of dignity while many are making very difficult decisions and life choices; he is admired and sought out by his colleagues because of his extensive knowledge and understanding of the world of Adult Protective Services ; and finally Lance is a great team player who can always be counted on to advance the mission of the Division of Senior and Adult Services.

This level of care and dedication isn’t new for Lance. He began his career as a Child Protection Specialist with the Division of Children and Family Services. He distinguished himself there as a strong advocate for families. “Lance was a standout worker who truly cared about the children and families he worked with,” said Cynthia Weiskittel, Director of DCFS. “That’s one of the reasons he was chosen to help start our Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams (START) unit over 20 years ago. He was a champion for children and helped insure the safety of drug-exposed babies.”

For his part, Lance says he is humbled by this year’s award. “DSAS makes it so easy to come to work every day because all of the wonderful people we have here,” says McElrath. “I truly enjoy every day at work and a lot of jobs you really cannot say this about. It's a pleasure to work with such outstanding people.”

After more than 20 years helping to protect children, seniors, and adults with disabilities, this award is well deserved. To Lance and all our colleagues who come to work every day inspired to serve, thank you for all you do!