Meet Jana — a Differential Response Family Service Worker out of area one and our first Every Day Champion of the new year!
Jana joined DCFS nearly five years ago after moving to Arkansas from California. “I literally stumbled upon this job,” Jana shared with our staff today. “The position aligned with my background in prevention and education, but in this role, I get to help at the root – with parents and guardians.”
Jana is known in area one for her collaboration with community partners and her knack for mobilizing a community to help those in need.
“Collaborating with community partners and getting everyone working towards a solution is what gets me on fire,” she says.
She is also known for her use of Safety Organized Practice tools – her favorite being the Three Houses and the Three Column Mapping tools.
“The safety organized practice tools are great. I always use the three houses and the three column mapping tools; they really do help guide an interview process and help families communicate better.”
Thank you, Jana, for your commitment to the children and families of Arkansas!
Gwendolyn “Gwen” Hawkins
Gwen joined the agency 20 years ago and has been a true asset to DCFS ever since. Last weekend, Gwen worked tirelessly to ensure more than 30 children had transportation to Candyland Christmas – DCFS’ largest Christmas event put on by community partner, Project Zero for children who are waiting to be adopted.
When Gwen spoke to our staff today, she shared lots of interesting facts about herself. Gwen is an Army Veteran. She has five grandchildren and another one on the way, and in her spare time, you can catch Gwen reading a book, watching HGTV, or shopping at Hobby Lobby.
Thank you, Gwen to your commitment to children and families in Arkansas!
Judy is no stranger to child welfare. She has worked with the agency for more than 10 years, and prior to joining DCFS in Arkansas, she worked with the DCFS in the state of Oklahoma. She has seen most all facets of child welfare, having experienced foster care herself as a teen, and being both a foster parent, and raising her own grandchildren. When she spoke to our staff today, she said this is just her calling.
Judy’s main focus is helping to identify family members, and when possible, placing children with relatives when they enter foster care. She is known for thinking outside of the box and getting creative to help children stay safely with their families, and she shared a story with us that is sure to warm your hearts.
Once, a sibling group of five children entered foster care. Their grandmother met all of the requirements to care for the children, except she didn’t have the space in her home. Instead of denying the grandmother a chance to provide care to the grandchildren, Judy worked with her, rallied the community and some partners, and was able to get a mobile home and lumber donated. The lumber was used to connect the mobile home to the grandmother’s existing home, turning her one-bedroom house into a four-bedroom house big enough for everyone to live in safely. To this day, that family is still together and doing well!
When she is not busy changing the lives of provisional families in Northwest Arkansas, you may find Judy fishing, hiking, geocaching, or tending to her garden.
Thank you, Judy for your commitment to the children and families of Arkansas!
Alexis joined the team 10 years ago as a program assistant, and over the years she has worked her way up to her current role. Like all of our Every Day Champion’s Alexis is known in her community for her passion and advocacy for children and families.
Alexis shared with our staff today, “I am very grateful and humble on my journey with DCFS. I am a firm believer in dedication, perseverance, hard work, accountability, Follow-through, and respect for my fellow co-workers, children, families, and providers. I believe this is my calling to serve the community; in order to receive a blessing, you have to be a blessing.”
When she is not busy serving the children, families, or communities in Miller county, you can catch Alexis watching the Golden State Warriors or her favorite, WWE!
Thank you, Alexis, for your commitment to the children and families of Arkansas!
Shameka joined the agency nearly five years ago. In her time with the agency she has made a name for herself as being a fierce advocate for children and families, for her ability to navigate adversity, and for being a great team player in the workplace.
Last week on our webinar with DCFS staff across the state, Shameka shared touching story of her interaction with a family that discriminated against her because of her race. In the face of this adversity, she persisted and kept her focus on the safety of the child. She was able to move the child to safety, connect the parents with necessary services, and eventually earned the cooperation and respect of the parent who had originally discriminated against her. In fact, the parent thanked her for her help and still provides updates on the family to this day.
Shameka is also a shining example of building rapport with the children and youth on her caseload, especially those in residential treatment facilities. She has been known to provide them with things they request – like books, trading cards, and snacks – out of her own pocket.
Amanda first joined DCFS in 1997 as extra help; shortly after she joined the team permanently as a Family Service Worker, and today, 25 years later, she’s still here serving children and families.
Amanda has always had a heart for people. Prior to coming to DCFS, Amanda served in the United States Army as a working on special operations like Desert Storm, and it is there that Amanda says she learned some of the best work practices she still uses today — open communication, teamwork and collaboration.
Those who have had the pleasure of working with Amanda know her to have an open door policy and being a great team player. When she spoke to our DCFS teams across the state today, Amanda shared an analogy that we’re all sure to remember.
“I think of child welfare like a good pound cake,” Amanda says.
“You have to have all of the ingredients collaborating together for it to turn out well. DHS is the main ingredient; our community partners and providers are the butter and sugar; the families we serve are the eggs; the court system is the cream cheese, and the flavoring represents the attorneys. It takes all of us communicating and collaborating as a team for things to work and work well.”
Thank you, Amanda, for your service and for your commitment to the children and families of Arkansas!
Bailey first joined the agency in 2017. She worked as a family service worker managing foster care cases for four years before becoming a supervisor for adoptions in the area, but her introduction to DCFS and child welfare started long before she ever began to work for the agency.
Bailey’s parents are foster parents, and she credits their service for her passion.
“My parents have been fostering for about 8 years,” Bailey says.
“They are the ones who opened my eyes to the world of DCFS and sparked my interest to change my major and pursue a job in child welfare, and they continue to be my biggest cheerleaders on my career journey”
Bailey is a fierce advocate for workplace organization, moving waiting children to permanency through adoption, keeping sibling groups together when it is in the best interest of the children, and celebrating — because what’s not to celebrate when a child is adopted by their forever family?
When she is not working, Bailey enjoys spending time outdoors, traveling, going to concerts, and spending time with family and friends.
Rachel first joined the Division of Children and Family Services in 2009 as an Investigator in Miller County. In 2015, Rachel took on her current role as an investigations supervisor where she oversees the daily operations of counties in Southwest Arkansas.
Rachel works diligently to to ensure the safety of children in this state. And though the work can get challenging, Rachel embraces the challenges taking them as an opportunity to learn from others and better perfect her skills. When she spoke to our statewide staff today, Rachel shared, “I love what I do. This isn’t just a job, it’s my career. I am a lifer!”
When Rachel is not busy helping support children and families in Area 4, she loves flying as a private pilot or cycling on a daily basis striving to improve on her ten mile times. Rachel is also the proud mother to her eleven-year-old son, Andrew.
Thank you Rachel for your commitment to serving the children and families of Arkansas!
Our next Every Day Champion is Brandy Kidd a PS supervisor for Lonoke, Prairie, and Jefferson Counties!
Brandy joined DCFS nearly 10 years ago working protective services cases in Grant county. In her time with the agency, she has also served as an investigator in Jefferson County before taking on her current role as supervisor.
You can’t tell by looking at her, but Brandy is both a mom and a grandmother, so the passion she has for children and families comes as no surprise. When she spoke to our staff last week, Brandy shared “I am passionate about children, helping others, and giving back, so this job is just a natural fit.” When we asked her what her best practices are for her job, Brandy unequivocally responded “Teamwork.”
“Teamwork is the most important part of this work,” Brandy says. “I support my team in any way I can, because I am nothing without them. When you have a good team, you support them and hold on to them as best you can.”
Thank you, Brandy, for your commitment to the children and families of Arkansas.
This week’s Every Day Champion is Elizabeth diPaola from Area 8!
Elizabeth first joined DCFS as a Program Assistant, and eventually worked her way to her current role of Family Service Worker. Elizabeth has a background in child development and education, so transitioning to serving children and families as a family service worker was seamless!
Because of her background, Elizabeth is a champion for connecting children with education and early intervention services and families with community supports when needed. She is also a champion of Safe Measures and Safety Organized Practice. When she spoke to our staff today, Elizabeth shared the Three Columns Mapping tool is her favorite.
“The Three Columns Mapping tool makes it easier to navigate situations with families,” Elizabeth said. “It helps get things outlined with just three simple questions, and we’re able to prioritize needs.”
When Elizabeth is not busy helping support children and families in area 8, you can find her being the best aunt to her five-year-old niece, loving on her fur babies, or traveling the world to explore new places.
Thank you Elizabeth for your commitment to serving children and families of Arkansas.
This week’s Every Day Champion is Keona Barbee – a Family Service Worker Specialist out of Area 7!
Keona, originally from West Memphis, joined DCFS in 2018 after graduating from UALR. Over the last four years, she has served children and families primarily in Lonoke and Prairie counties, but she is known to step up and help out in other counties like Pulaski and Jefferson when needed.
Keona is also known for her knack to build rapport and engage with families on a deeper level. When she spoke to our statewide DCFS staff today, she shared “I feel that it’s very important to get to know these families outside the circumstances that bring them in contact with DCFS. Everyone’s situation is different, so it’s important to get to know them as people, as a family, and not just as a case. I work hard to show the families I work with that I am here to work with them, not against them.”
Thank you Keona for your commitment to serving children and families in Arkansas!
This week’s Every Day Champion is Pierre Primm – an Investigations Supervisor in Pulaski County!
Pierre is a fierce advocate for children and families in Arkansas. Though he’s only been with the division for six years, Pierre has spent most of his career serving children and families in some capacity. As he says, “Once you become a DCFS worker, you’re attached.”
That is definitely true for Pierre. Prior to moving to Arkansas, he served as a foster care manager in his hometown of Columbus, Georgia. When he joined the agency, he worked as a licensing specialist for the Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education but ultimately made his way to DCFS. When he spoke to our staff today, Pierre shared that his core belief in and alignment with the goals of DCFS drew him in, and being on the other side of the job —working investigations, that is — gives him a chance to help families in crisis and try to prevent children from ever entering foster care.
Pierre also shared some of his best practices with the team: Ask questions, fact check, and document, document, document.
In his spare time, Pierre still seems to find a way to serve youth by volunteering his time as a basketball coach at his local Boys & Girls Club. He also enjoys being a girl dad to his daughter Pilar and learning the latest technology.
Thank you Pierre for your commitment to the children and families of Arkansas.
Clay joined DCFS in 2015 after working as a school counselor. He currently serves families in Carroll and Madison counties on the Differential Response team. All who have been lucky enough to work with Clay speak very highly of him noting that he always goes out of his way to help everyone involved in his cases.
When Clay spoke to our staff this morning, he shared some of his best practices and favorite Safety Organized Practice tools.
“I have found the Circles of Support from our SOP training to be one of my most valuable practices, in conjunction with the Support Network Grid,” Clay says. The Circles of Support tool allows us to to move away from the immediate crisis of having DHS in the home and discuss important and positive aspects of a family’s life.”
“The Support Network Grid allows me to discuss a range of needs and supports with a family. Most importantly, though, the Support Network Grid has opened up discussions of useful resources with which the family may not be familiar.”
When Clay is not busy strengthening families in Carroll and Madison counties through differential response, you can find him trail running, hiking, or renovating his home, which used to be the one-room schoolhouse for students in Grandview Arkansas (How cool is that?!).
Thank you Clay for your commitment to children and families in Arkansas!
Let’s go into the weekend with some good news! This week’s Every Day Champion is Jasmine Ferguson, a Family Service Worker out of Union County.
Jasmine joined DCFS in August of 2020; in fact, she just celebrated her 2nd work anniversary with the agency this week! Jasmine was led to pursue a career in child welfare after hearing the experiences of her mother’s time in foster care as a child. In just two short years, Jasmine has already made a name for herself. Those who have had the honor of working with her know Jasmine to be a fierce advocate for children and families, a leader and team player in the workplace, and a valuable resource for the community. She is always willing to step up and help get things done, and she is calm, cool, and collected, even in crisis.
When she’s not busy serving the children and families of Arkansas, you can find Jasmine planning her upcoming wedding, shopping, or spending time with her family.
Thank you Jasmine for your commitment to the children and families of Arkansas!
This week’s Every Day Champion is Keri Worley from area 9!
Keri is no newbie when it comes to child welfare. In fact, Keri started with the agency more than 17 years ago back in 2005. In her time with the division, Keri has worked in almost area every of the state (don’t worry area 10, Keri plans to get to you before retirement, some how ☺️), but none have been more special than area 9. Why? Because it is home!
Keri currently serves as the area 9 rover supervisor, overseeing the area’s differential response team. When she spoke to our staff today, Keri shared how she and her team are able to engage families and help keep them safely together through differential response.
“We go out and we talk with the families, assess their needs, and get them the help that they need,” Kerri says. “I enjoy getting to help families grown and strengthening them to become strong family units with the assistance of the department.”
Thank you, Keri, for your commitment to the children and families of Arkansas. We certainly could not do what we do without you!
This week’s Every Day Champion is Family Service Worker Melinda Graves out of Clay County!
Melinda is a veteran when it comes to serving the families of Arkansas. In fact, she will be celebrating her 20th work anniversary with DHS this November! Melinda joined the agency in 2002, but she didn’t start out as an employee of DCFS; she worked with the Division of County Operations helping clients access services like SNAP and Medicaid. In 2014, Melinda joined DCFS and has been an asset to the team ever since.
Melinda is a fierce advocate of not just children, but families as a whole. She is known for being able to help families stay safely together, or in cases where children must be temporarily removed, she helps the family to safely reunify. When Melinda spoke to our DCFS staff today, she shared some of her best practices — building rapport with the children and families; treating the families with respect, and different elements of DCFS’s Safety Organized Practice.
When she’s not busy serving the children and families in Clay County, Melinda enjoys spending time with her family, especially her grandchildren, tending to her plants, and catching good shows on TV.
Thank you Melinda for your commitment to the children of families of Arkansas!
This week’s Every Day Champion is Family Service Worker Owney Lambert out of Drew County!
Owney joined the agency in 2018 and worker as a Family Service Worker for three years before recently becoming a Family Service Worker Specialist. Owney is well known and respected in DCFS Area 10. She has a reputation for being passionate about her work, the mission of DCFS, and being dedicated to ensuring the best possible outcomes for the children and families she serves.
When it comes to serving children and families, Owney lives by two things — teamwork, and safety organized practice. Owney has been known to jump in where needed without hesitation, often stepping up to help other counties within her area. She also was an early adopter of DCFS’ new practice model, Safety Organized Practice, and implements many of its tools in her every day practices. When we caught up with her Owney shared how one tool in particular – the Three Houses tool – helps her in her every day work.
“After being shown that tool, I started using it immediately,” Owney says. “It allows the client to express their feelings through writing when they’re unable to verbally express themselves. It allows them to participate in a positive way.”
Oney is a native of Pine Bluff and an alum of University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff where she recieved a B.S. in Criminal Justice. When she is not busy living out the mission of DCFS, keeping children safe and strengthening families, spending time with her daughter, Skyler, and her doghter (see what we did there ☺️) Chloe. She also enjoys self-care days, shopping, watching movies, and spending quality time with her family.
Thank you, Owney, for your commitment to serving the children and families of Arkansas.
Kamesha first joined the DCFS team in 2005. She worked as a caseworker for five years before leaving to work in another segment of child welfare. Like all good DCFS workers, Kamesha didn’t stay gone long. She soon returned to DCFS working as a resource worker, and again as a case worker before taking on her current role as Family Service Worker Supervisor. Kamesha mainly serves children and families in Dallas and Calhoun counties, but she’s been known to step up to the plate to help out other counties like Grant and Jefferson; that’s just the kind of person she is, a team player! In fact, when Kamesha spoke to our statewide DCFS staff earlier today she shared one of her best practices — team work.
“As a supervisor, I’ve learned that a leader is nothing without its team, and you’re only as good as the team you’re leading,” Kamesha says. “My team is most valuable to me…They’ve helped shape me into the supervisor I am.”
Kamesha is a native of Monticello. She graduated from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff with a B.S. in Rehabilitation Services and received a master’s degree in counseling from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. In her spare time, Kamesha enjoys hanging out with her husband of 15 years, and her children, Braylen and Bryley.
This week’s DCFS Every Day Champion is Daniela Salamo, an Adoption Specialist in northwest Arkansas.
Daniela is originally from Brooklyn, New York, but she moved here to be closer to family. She graduated from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and she is currently in graduate school, working on her Master’s degree in Social Work.
For Daniela, working in child welfare is much more than a job or a career – it’s personal. She and her sister were adopted when Daniela was 8 years old, so she knows better than most how important this work is. “I couldn’t imagine doing something outside of social work or the mental health field,” she shared with us. “I’ve learned that God uses our personal struggles and obstacles to help others that may be facing similar issues. I believe I am in this field for a reason and that I am supposed to use my experience/story to help others.”
Daniela is passionate about helping guide children and families through whatever they’re facing to find the best possible outcome for everyone. And she’ll be the first to tell you that she learns so much from her families as they walk the path together. “We are continuously expecting our clients to be vulnerable with us as we try to lead them through the process of reunification, sobriety, or whatever it may be,” Daniela said. “Yet we as a workforce struggle in being vulnerable with them. I know I do. But for me, vulnerability equals growth. We don’t want to stay still as workers, leaders, employees, people, etc. To be vulnerable and empathetic is critical in the field we are in.”
Passion. Connection. Commitment. Those words, and many more, define our Every Day Champion this week. Thank you, Daniela, for your commitment to the children and families of Arkansas!
This week’s DCFS Every Day Champion is Greg Steinsiek, a Family Service Worker in western Arkansas!
Greg didn’t start his professional life as an eager social worker straight out of college. He spent 20 years in restaurant management before making a career change and joining us. We can’t help but believe that the skills he learned, practiced, and perfected in that profession – teamwork, strong work ethic, creative problem-solving, and a focus on communication and customer service – were a perfect springboard into his current (and we hope last!) profession.
So, what is it about Greg that makes him our latest Every Day Champion? He truly values and works closely with community partners to make sure that his families get the supports and resources they need. Greg isn’t afraid to lean on his local team and leadership for advice and guidance, and he works hard to be that same support for his colleagues when they need him (or his truck!). He takes great pride in and has embraced his role as a mentor to younger workers, offering his learned experiences to help make them more comfortable and effective in their roles.
But maybe most importantly of all, Greg is known far and wide for his belief in the strength of the family. He loves talking about his own family and how proud he is of them. But for the families he works with every day, he works hard to be a source of hope and comfort during difficult times. For those families, Greg is their Every Day Champion…and that’s why he’s ours, too.
Thank you, Greg, for your commitment to the children and families of Arkansas!
This week’s Every Day Champion is Gala Griffin – Family Service Worker Supervisor in Southwest Arkansas!
Gala joined DCFS right out of college as a family service worker in Nevada County. This year, Gala will celebrate 30 years with DCFS. Talk about commitment! In her time with the division, Gala has served families in a few different roles. She started off as a family service worker in Nevada County, but after attending an adoption finalization and falling in love with the work, Gala joined the adoptions team, and the rest is history! Today, Gala supervises adoptions in DCFS Area 4 and is a fierce advocate for waiting children!
Gala spoke to our staff across the state today, and shared some of her best practices:
1. Take things one day at a time
2. Treat everyone with respect
3. Be a hands-on leader; a supervisor is only as good as the team they lead.
When Gala is not busy advocating for waiting children and teens or leading a team of DCFS employees, she enjoys being outdoors with nature, watching sports, and playing with her grandchildren.
Thank you Gala for your commitment to the children and families of Arkansas!
Since we started this series back in the spring we’ve highlighted several amazing family service workers who are doing incredible work in their communities. But, this week, we’ve decided to expand our criteria, and share even more stories from the field — and this time, from supervisors!
Meet Natalie Payne, Investigations Supervisor for Pulaski County! Natalie joined DCFS as an investigator in 2017 and earned current role as supervisor in 2020. She is a fierce advocate for the children and families of Arkansas. Today, she shared with DCFS staff across the state one of biggest lessons she has learned in this line of work and one of her best practices.
“One of the biggest things I learned is that every case is not a removal [of children from their homes, parents],” Natalie says. “It’s important to implement services in the home whenever you can.”
Having once been a young, single mom herself who had to rely on help from family and friends, and even the state, Natalie also shared on her belief in the importance of treating families with respect, having compassion, and being empathic to situations.
“I know how hard it is being a single mom,” Natalie says. “I had a lot of help from my family, but I know not everyone has that. So, it’s important to me that we’re showing compassion to families who need our help.”
Aside from her work supervising investigations, Natalie also serves as DCFS representative for the Pulaski County Multidisciplinary Team and represents Pulaski County on the Complex Case Review Team at the Child Protection Center.
Thank you Natalie for your commitment to the children and families of Arkansas!
Meet this week’s Every Day Champion – Kelsey Jones!
Kelsey is a fierce advocate for children and families in Craighead, Greene, and Clay counties (area 8). She originally joined DCFS as an investigator, but after stepping up to help out a short-staffed foster care team, Kelsey became a foster care resource worker, and most recently switched to adoptions.
When we sat down with her today, Kelsey shared something that she has found to be very important in this line of work — establishing connections and building rapport with everyone involved on a case, especially the children.
“As a foster care worker, I made it a priority to connect with the children on my caseload, especially those who were in facilities,” Kelsey said.
“There was one child who had no family, and so every night when they were allowed a phone call, he had no one to call. One night he called me and said, ‘Mrs. Kelsey, I have no one else to call. You are the only person I have.’ That absolutely humbled me, and from that day forward I did my best to make sure I didn’t miss his calls.”
Kelsey also shared her beliefs on the importance of mentorship in the workplace, recalling her time with a mentor, and more recently being able to mentor others in the workplace.
Thank you Kelsey for your commitment to strengthening the children and families of Arkansas. We could not do what we do without people like you!
This week’s Every Day Champion is Dea Garrison, a resource worker out of area 3!
Dea began her career in child welfare as an investigator working solely on Garrett’s Law cases — cases where a child or children are born positive for illegal substances. Eventually, Dea transitioned from her role as an investigator to her current role as a resource worker where she focuses on supporting foster families. To the children, families, and communities she serves, Dea is an invaluable support offering them the emotional, mental, and logistical support they need.
To her co-workers, Dea is a team player and a champion for the division’s new practice model, safety organized practice. Dea shared with us that she is especially fond of the team decision making tool. “I think team decision meetings and mentoring staff on the importance of having a team approach is one of the most important things we can do right now,” she said.
Thank you Dea for your commitment to serving the children and families of Arkansas!
Like all of the champion’s we’ve featured, Jerrica is, simply put, amazing. She goes above and beyond the call of duty to help the children and families on her caseload, but we’re especially proud of her work around the Interstate Contract on the Placement of Children (ICPC) — an agreement between states to accept and place children from different states into their foster care program — and safety organized practice — a new practice model DCFS is implementing to better serve children and families.
Last year, Jerrica was tasked with learning the ICPC process, which required her to learn the ins-and-outs of other states’ foster care programs and requirements to better serve children who were placed in our care from other states. Though it was challenging, Jerrica committed to learning the process and has been a great resource for ICPC families on her caseload.
Jerrica is also a champion of safety organized practice – her favorite tool to use is the three-column mapping. When Jerrica shared her experience with our statewide DCFS staff, she shared, “The three-column mapping tool helps paint a full picture – the good and bad – not just what’s bad. Implementing this tool in my work has helped me keep placements from falling apart; I was able to keep a child safely placed in a home and ensure that services were in place to support the family.”
When Jerrica is not busy championing the causes of DCFS, you can catch her taking a cat nap, which is completely justifiable considering all the wedding planning she’s been doing, reading a book, or serving her community with her sorority!
Thank you Jerrica for your commitment to serving the children and families of Arkansas!
Meet Sally, this week’s Every Day Champion! Sally serves children and families in Phillips County as a family service worker (FSW). Sally joined DCFS seven years ago as a Program Assistant, and within a year she was promoted to a family service worker. Her first case, she says, was one of the hardest cases to come across her desk, and she believes nothing could’ve prepared her for the journey she walked with those children.
“I didn’t give up on them. Instead, I became immersed in the children’s lives,” Sally says.
Through her interaction with the children, Sally was not only able to build rapport with them as their caseworker, but a strong family-like bond that remains today. When one of the children reached majority age (18) and graduated high school, Sally helped get the teen into a residential developmental center. Beyond that, Sally took on a part-time job with the center so that she could maintain contact and remain a support in the client’s life and educate the center on DCFS and the childwelfare system as a whole — talk about a champion!
Thank you, Sally, for your commitment to the children and families of Arkansas. We could not do what we do without you!
This week’s Every Day Champion is John Seward in Cleburne County in Area 9 ! John is very humble and doesn’t seem to like the spotlight much, but take it from us, the work he does for the families he serves is worthy of recognition!
John is known in the counties he serves for being diligent, going the extra mile for children and families, and his unconventional way of connecting with children, his shoes. Yes, you read that right, his shoes! When we caught up with John and his team, his area director, Cyndi Rowlett, shared this story:
“I am pretty strict on dress code in the area and especially in court. I started noticing John always wearing Converse shoes in court. One day, I commented on the color of his Converse- they were BRIGHT. He asked if I knew the story of his shoes, and I didn’t. He proceeded to tell me that several years ago, he was doing an investigation and was having trouble getting a young child to open up to him and talk. Ultimately it was his shoes that got the girl talking and she finally opened up to John! He has spoken to Judge Harrod and gotten permission to wear his Converse shoes in court with his dress clothes. When he told he this story, it really touched me and how a simple thing as a pair of shoes can change so much and build a relationship with a child. He has a HUGE assortment of them and all colors.”
John’s connections do not stop with the children. He is also well known in the communities he serves as a selfless advocate for safety of children, sacrificing personal time to ensure children are safe; an educator on child welfare laws and policies; and a bridge between local law enforcement and DCFS in the areas he serves.
Thank you John for your commitment to the children and families of Arkansas!
After becoming a mom at a young age, Coby knew she wanted to work with children in some capacity. She began her career in early childhood education, and after many years in the field, she was led to join DCFS.
Coby is known in the community for being persistent, making sure children and families are safe and stable; compassionate, working to understand families’ needs and working with them to strengthen their family unit; and in the office, a team player, lending herself as a mentor and helping hand to co-workers.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Coby says of working with DCFS. “I enjoy being a part of our great team here in Crawford County and look forward to many years to come with them.”
Thank you Coby for your commitment to the children and families of Arkansas!
Meet Holli, an adoption specialist in Area 5. There’s a lot we could say about the wonderful work Holli does for the children and families she serves, but this testament from a resource family is one that is too good not to share:
“We opened our home in May of 2019, and like most hopeful resource parents, we were excited and ready to be matched immediately. We started to lose hope, and when the pandemic hit, we were almost ready to give up. We met with Holli; I looked at her and told her that we were ready to throw in the towel, and she looked at me and said confidently, “Your child is out there. They will come home. Be patient. They are coming. Don’t lose hope.” Our son came home in July of 2020. Then, in November of 2021, Holli called us again with news that our daughter was coming home. My husband and I let her know that we would be naming our daughter Holli after the woman who helped us create our family. Now, every time I say my daughter’s name, I remember the woman who we call our adoption angel.”
After a beautiful story like that, there’s not much left to say except thank you. So, thank you, Holli, for your commitment to the children and families in Arkansas. We could not do what we do without you!
Ginger is a social worker through-and-through. Right out of college, Ginger began working as a social worker in a nursing home. After that, she worked at the DHS office in Clay County before making the decision to stay home with her children. In 2018, when she returned to DHS, Ginger joined DCFS as a resource worker and has been enriching the lives of children and families in Northeast Arkansas ever since.
Ginger is known in the counties she serves for being compassionate, dependable, and hardworking. She goes above the call of duty to help resource parents — recruiting the women’s group at her home church to prepare freezer meals for foster families and even turning her garage into a storage for donations for families in need. But that’s not even the best part, Ginger is not only able to connect families to resources, she has taken it upon herself to BE the resources her families need. When prospective foster parents needed CPR and First Aid training to open their homes, Ginger found approved instructors to teach classes for free and a church to donate a training space for free, and now, she is certified to start teaching the classes herself! Now, that’s what we call being resourceful!
Thank you Ginger for your commitment to serving the children and families of Arkansas.
Last week we mentioned some people are called to work for DCFS. This week we’re highlighting someone who, well, simply put, it’s just in her blood. Meet this week’s Every Day Champion, Ashley!
Ashley began her work with DCFS following her mother’s footsteps. Ashley’s mother worked for DCFS as an investigator, and once she graduated college, Ashley joined the team too. And while she did follow her mom’s footsteps initially, a little friendly competition between the two pushed Ashley to chart her own path and make a name for herself.
“My mom and I have always been very competitive, and so it over flowed into our work ethic.” Ashley says. “My mom worked very hard to build positive relationships with law enforcement and other stakeholders in the area, so when I started I had to come up with something above and beyond that.”
And she has done just that. Ashley set out to change the narrative about DCFS, and champions the cause of DCFS every by building rapport with partners and stakeholders in the communities she serves like law enforcement, schools, hospitals and churches; she educates the communities by hosting regular trainings; and she is a champion for safety organized practice.
Thank you Ashley for championing the causes of DCFS and making every day count for the children and families of Arkansas.
Working for DCFS is not always a choice one gets to make; for some, like this week’s Every Day Champion Michael Proch, it’s a calling. Michael is a native of Polk County (Mena) and has been with DCFS nearly 10 years. Michael tells us his employment with DCFS came about by chance; he had no plans of working in child welfare, or even with the state, but things have a way of working out, and he loves the work he does and can’t imagine himself doing anything else.
Michael is known being for resourceful, keeping community partners and stakeholders involved through his involvement with MDT, being a team player at work, and going the extra mile for the clients he serves.
Thank you, Michael, for your commitment to making every day count for the children and families of Arkansas.
If anybody is committed to serving children and families, it is Sharon! Sharon has been with DCFS nearly 30 years and still serves the families of Lee County with a smile.
Sharon is a strong pillar of support for the children and families on her caseload and is known to go above and beyond the call of duty regularly. In fact, on one of her current cases, Sharon has provided a parent with clothes from her own closet, paid prescription copayments, and she sometimes even spends her days off facilitating communication with providers assigned to her cases.
Sharon’s work is not only recognized by DCFS or the families on her caseload, but also by her community. Vanessa Brayboy – Denson, Executive Director of Brayboy Safety Against Domestic Violence Crisis Center shared, “Sharon has always been caring, understanding, and relatable. She has always been dedicated to the clients’ needs, and her enthusiasm motivates them to do more with their lives.”
Thank you Sharon for your commitment and dedication to serving the children and families of Arkansas. We could not do what we do without you!
Brandy is a fierce advocate for families and a champion for safety and permanency in Logan County. Brandy tells us she starts every case by building a rapport with the parents and children on her caseload, and working to help them understand that they are team with one common goal. She goes the extra mile to strengthen families, including making family visits more normal by creating opportunities for families to visit together outside of the office. She has taken families fishing, hiking, to museums and more! Her work is not just felt by our staff and the families she works with, but also by partners and her community. Presley Turner (Turner & Rasch, Attorneys LLP), an attorney for a DCFS parent said, “Brandy is one of the most supportive caseworkers I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. She does literally everything she can for my clients…We are lucky to have her in Logan County.”
Thank you Brandy for making every day count, championing the cause, and for your commitment to strengthening families!