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Franklin writes heartfelt letterPosted Date: 05/11/2018
By: Mary Franklin
(In 2017, Division of County Operations (DC0) Director Mary Franklin wrote a letter to her employees about what made the mission real in her life. In celebration of Public Service Recognition Week 2018, we’re showcasing Franklin’s letter and three responses from her staff.)
Good morning Division of County Operations family.
As DCO, our mission is to provide quality human services that strengthen the health and well-being of Arkansas’ children, families, and adults.
Have you ever been asked why you work for the Department of Human Services (DHS)?
Along with the reasons I give about great benefits, generous leave, and a retirement plan, I always say because I want to help people and make a difference. There have been many moments in my career – like the one I am sharing today – that have made the mission real.
Here’s the story.
I had been a caseworker for about three years and one day I was scheduled to interview a young woman for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). She had never received services before. I took her to my office and we went through the SNAP interview. The family consisted of the young woman, her husband, and two children – both under school age. Her husband worked in a local factory and had made a good living for the family until the factory began cutting back hours due to a lack of business. He was being called in, “as needed.”
He was basically on call every day and had to be available to report to work when called. Her husband’s situation was making it difficult for the lady to look for work. By the way, this predates the boom in cell phones. They were around, but not yet a common item that basically everybody had.
Nonetheless, the couple couldn’t afford to put the kids in daycare just so they could both look for steady work. They were behind on their bills and didn’t have money to buy groceries. The lady came to DHS because she needed to make sure that her children had food to eat. It turned out that the family was eligible for SNAP benefits. I was able to tell her that same day what her benefit amount would be and when she would receive benefits. I could see immediate relief on her face. Her eyes then filled with tears and she asked me, “Does this mean that you will have to take my kids, since we can’t provide everything they need right now?” I quickly reassured her that she would not lose her kids because she came to ask for help or because her family was having financial trouble. I told her, “You did the right thing. This is what we are here for.”
I was glad I was there with the right knowledge and compassion to help that young woman. She needed help and came to DHS to make sure her children had food to eat even though she was afraid that coming to us might mean she would lose them.
Moments like that confirm time and again that we help people and make a difference. Not everyone can do something that can have this kind of impact on people’s lives, but we can.
I would love to hear about some of your moments that have made the mission real for you. Please send them to me if you don’t mind sharing. I am so proud to be a part of this team.
Thank you for all that you do.
BELOW ARE A FEW OF THE RESPONSES FROM DCO STAFF
I have worked for DHS/DCO for close to 38 years. When I first became an Eligibility Worker for SNAP, I was adamant about the mission of DHS. On one particular day, I called a client, who was visibly bruised and angry. I went over the pre-interview scenario with her, and began asking her “did she understand?” Each time she would say in a very snappy way, yes – and would go into a fit of cursing. After about 15 minutes of this, I laid my pen down and pushed aside her application. After giving us both time to catch our breath, I explained to her very quietly that I was not here to judge her, but only to assist her in receiving the help she needed.
She began to cry and explain to me that she was in a shelter and had been abused for the past five years with this last time being the breaking point. She explained that she’d never asked for assistance with her three children, but had nowhere else to turn to try and start over. After she finished, I told her that we all experience something in life that we are not too proud of, and that I also had to rely on public assistance after my divorce from an abusive spouse. With that it seems that all anxiety went out the door and we were able to complete the interview. With the interview completed, and me letting her know her benefit amount, a fresh flood of tears began forming in her eyes. She asked if she could hug me, and we hugged and she thanked me. I walked her to the door explaining to her that DHS exists to help people in need.
I once had a SNAP recipient come in for a recertification. While interviewing her, she confided in me that she thought she had cancer. I stopped what I was doing and asked her if she had seen a doctor. She said she couldn’t afford to as she had no insurance.
I told her she had to go see the doctor about it, and spent some time explaining the program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) Medicaid to her. Our office Medical review team – since both parents were in the home – assured her that we could go back up-to three months to cover medical bills if she was found eligible.
She went to the doctor and she did have cancer. She applied for AFDC Medicaid and the lady was eligible. A few months later, I saw her again, and she said, “If it hadn’t been for you, I probably wouldn’t be alive now.” If I had done nothing else in all these years, that was one of the most important things I could have done. Knowing a woman got her body healed, and because of it her 5-year-old son grew up with his mommy around, made me feel like I made a difference.
I started with DHS in 1987 as a case worker. I’ve always felt that this job is what God wants me to do. That’s why I always give it my best. In 1989 as a case worker, one my duties included certifying applicants for the Tax Equity Fiscal Responsibility Act (TEFRA). It was at this time that I was drafted to go to a meeting with parents of children with disabilities. I came with my pamphlets and applications ready to assist.
That first meeting was an unforgettable experience because I met parents who had children with disabilities who had no idea DHS provided TEFRA.
The mission was made real to me again one day when my phone rang and on the other end was a client I met at that meeting. Her 4-year-old daughter was battling cancer. Thankfully, her daughter fully recovered as she’s now 31 years old. Her mom still calls me when she needs assistance. It’s always a good feeling to know that you’ve made a difference and clients know that they can still call on you.