DCFS workers, foster parents honored at awards luncheon

Child looking in empty refrigerator | Photo by Chameleonseye, iStock, Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Child welfare staff from the Division of Child and Family Services of the Department of Human Services across the southwest region of Utah were recognized for their work at a recent awards luncheon.

Social worker visiting family stock image | Photo by Monkeybusiness, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

“In serving the best interests of children,” Carol Bellamy once said, “we serve the best interests of all humanity.”

The luncheon was held at the Utah Department of Human Services office in St. George.

The luncheon offered an opportunity to show the many employees of the DCFS throughout the region the positive impact they have on the community and that their efforts have not gone unnoticed.

“The truth is that these workers are going to bat daily to help protect children in our community and help reunify families who have been affected by trauma, abuse or neglect,” Ben Ashcraft, southwest region representative for Utah Foster Care, said.

Ashcraft is a lead foster adoptive consultant for Utah Foster Care in Southern Utah and co-chair of the Quality Improvement Committee, an oversight committee for state child welfare workers.

“Their job does not come with a lot of fanfare or public praise,” Ashcraft said. “In fact, people often misunderstand their role and interpret their efforts in a negative light.”

Community partners, the Quality Improvement Committee, Utah Foster Care and the Family Support Center came together to recognize and acknowledge the workers for their years of service as well as the day-to-day acts in which they go “above and beyond” the call of duty.

Awards presented to recipients during appreciation luncheon for child welfare staff, foster parents and support staff | Image by St. George News

The employees and foster parents selected for the honor were first nominated by community members, local foster parents, local agencies and other state workers. Each nominee was reviewed before a vote took place to select the award recipients.

The workers selected were each recognized and presented with an “Above and Beyond” plaque of recognition.

The Family Support Center provided gift bags for each worker and expressed appreciation for the state employees’ hard work.

The luncheon also included stories and examples of how these state workers went above and beyond for the community, including case workers taking calls or visiting families outside of work hours in order to provide the love and support the children and families need.

“It is amazing how much they give every day to help protect these children along with advocating for positive family changes to help these children reunify with their parents,” Ashcraft said.

St. George staff members who were presented recognition awards include Tiah Wright, Cheryl Hall, Sandy Pinski, Kendra Healey and local foster parents Katie and Darren Pearce.

Mike Beacco received the administrator award for the entire southwest region for his work as the new child welfare administrator for the St. George Office.

Child crying stock image | Photo by Antonio Guillem, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Krystal Jones also received an award recognizing her work in helping bring the Youth Future’s Program to the local community to aid in addressing the homeless youth crisis.

As a result of Jones’ work, a Youth Futures Homeless Youth Shelter in St. George is opening this spring, and within a few years, the program is expected to expand to meet the needs of transition-age youth as well.

“This wouldn’t have happened without her,” the nominating committee wrote.

An appreciation luncheon honoring employees of the DCFS in Cedar City is scheduled for April 25.

By the time children in the United States reach adulthood, 37 percent will have crossed paths with Child Protective Services as potential victims of maltreatment, according to a 2015 study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

The division’s primary goal is to reunify children with their parents if changes can be made to ensure child safety. Only after extensive time and effort has been invested by state employees and team members are other options considered, such as adoption or guardianship.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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