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Recognizing Our Service Workers in Social Work Month

by Lorin Hancock , Program Officer – Communications, Cuyahoga County Department of Health and Human Services
A group of social service workers who won awards at the 2018 Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services appreciation event.There’s no dancing around it; working in the social services is tough. From the unpredictable hours, the even more unpredictable customers, to the emotionally intense work, it takes a special person to even consider this field. And yet half a million people across the country, and hundreds in Cuyahoga County come to work every day and put their hearts and souls into serving others. For these people, social service work isn’t a job; it’s a calling.

Cuyahoga County’s own social service workers help our most vulnerable residents: children and teens who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned; older and disabled adults who are unable to take care of themselves or are being abused; and families that are unstable or struggling. Our community partners also serve homeless individuals, veterans, formerly incarcerated persons, those fighting addiction or mental illness, and so much more. We are incredibly fortunate to have some of the most compassionate, dedicated, and skilled people working to serve our citizens every day.

A group of social service workers who won awards at the 2018 Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services appreciation event.For example, Nabratia, a child protection supervisor, recently took the lead in caring for a 15-year-old teen with special needs who came into our custody with his siblings. While the agency sought an appropriate foster home for the child, Nabratia stepped in to care for him without complaint or hesitation. She and her team regularly changed the teen’s diapers, bathed him, and met his other emotional and physical needs. Nabratia’s work with this family was outstanding, and it was all in addition to her regular job duties.

Or consider one of our senior and adult services workers helping a customer with multiple sclerosis who was bed-ridden and reliant on an oxygen tank. The customer called in a panic because her electricity was about to be disconnected, meaning her oxygen tank would no longer work. Our worker came to the woman’s bedside, and together they discovered that the customer’s child was mismanaging her accounts and taking her benefit payments. The worker helped our customer change her bank accounts and get in contact with a grandchild, who is now taking great care of her. Our worker even secured and submitted a medical certification to the electric company to prevent future shutoffs.

And there’s Pamela, a child protection specialist who convinced a six-year old that school wasn’t so scary. This child was literally running out the door and escaping school almost every day, driving his mother to her wit’s end. Pamela brought in outside experts to identify and work through the boy’s issues. She even spent the day at school, helping the child engage in activities with the other kids. The next day he went to school willingly and earned a gold star for his behavior.

There are so many incredible examples of our social service workers doing what they can to help our community thrive; sharing all their stories would fill volumes. Any social service worker who has been on the job long enough knows about the pressures and stresses of the work; but making a real difference in people’s lives trumps everything else. Cuyahoga County is lucky to have them in our corner.