COLUMBUS, Ohio — Throughout September, some of the first responders for Ohio families in crisis have been lauded for their commitment. During Workforce Development Month, state agencies and organizations have honored the extraordinary efforts of Children Services professionals during the pandemic and shared their stories on social media.
As an Alternative Response Caseworker at Athens County Children Services, Katherine King focuses on finding ways to support families. She said in the past six months, she's connected them with food and housing, and worked on literacy with kids.
"When you get to sit down in their homes and see where the kids do their homework and where they sleep, you see the really wonderful things that most families do," King said. "I know a lot of people think that my job must be miserable and I'm seeing terrible parents, but most of what I see is positive and good."
Gov. Mike DeWine also thanked caseworkers for their efforts, calling them the most "selfless and courageous" members of Ohio's workforce.
Marcus Hayden, a caseworker with Mahoning County Children Services, said he's missed connecting with families face-to-face, but has remained dedicated to their cases. He's especially proud of his efforts to help a mom in recovery get her kids back after visits were sidelined due to social distancing.
"She did everything she was supposed to do, and then COVID came in and messed up her visitation with her kids. So, providing extra mental support for her and keep pushing, because something like that can break someone," Hayden said.
King shared that during the pandemic, she's also helping families struggling with virtual learning.
"Whether it's a parent's mental health issues or defiant behavior by a kid, it's not a typical situation of neglect. But we can go out and talk to them about the issues, and then try to help them get into school before it gets to the point of being truancy or anything like that," King said.
Hayden said it takes a strong-minded and patient person to work in children services, and added it's incredibly rewarding to help families get onto the right path.
"We work 24 hours a day when emergencies hit us, and we have to be on call and ready. And it's always about the best interests of the child and providing the family with extra support," Hayden said. "We're basically cheerleaders to these families. We're not bad people; we're here to help."
Both Hayden and King are featured in the Public Children Services Association of Ohio's "Profiles of Hope and Courage," highlighting the work of people in Children Services in the era of COVID-19.