Manager’s Message: Social Workers Advocate, Support and Encourage
By County Manager Chris Coudriet
March is National Social Worker Month, and New Hanover County has an incredible team of social workers that serve our community every day.
Their compassion, support and assistance make a difference in the lives of children, families and seniors throughout our county. You may not come into contact with them in your day-to-day life but I can assure you they are always there, and they are protecting the most vulnerable in our community.
New Hanover County employs 130 social workers at the Department of Social Services (DSS), eight at the Public Health Department, and four at the Senior Resource Center. These dedicated public servants create bridges in our community between families and the services they need. They provide much-needed encouragement and support by genuinely listening, talking through possible solutions, and providing assistance during difficult and chaotic times. We couldn’t provide the services our residents need and deserve without them.
DSS social workers investigate claims of abuse or neglect, assist foster families who have children in their care, and help households that need emergency financial assistance. They provide case management for older or disabled adults who want to live at home and assist noncustodial parents to build relationships with their children and meet their child support obligations.
Last fiscal year, DSS social workers touched the lives of more than 4,600 people in our community. Of those, 3,000 were children during investigations for abuse or neglect, 280 were children placed into foster care, and 54 were adopted children. They also served 347 families with in-home services, 553 adults during investigations of abuse, neglect or exploitation, 154 adults to whom DSS is guardian, and 232 adults who received health support, individual and family adjustment and/or Special Assistance In-Home services.
New Hanover County social workers also work one-on-one with parents with substance use disorders to maintain the parental bond and expedite reunification through therapy, parent training and substance use disorder treatment. And they make valuable and life-saving connections in the community, participating and partnering with more than 40 community groups and advisory committees.
The county’s Public Health social workers make a difference in the social and emotional wellbeing of pregnant women, children and families in our community. They provide important services through the care coordination of services for children and specialized evidence-based therapies, and by linking families to assistance that will meet the specific needs of the child. They also act as pregnancy care managers to help women through pregnancy with prenatal care for the mother and baby.
From going to prenatal visits with expectant moms and helping to coordinate care for the mother across multiple providers to acting as an intermediary for families who have children with long-term medical conditions or families who are dealing with challenging levels of stress, these social workers put the child and the family first. Last year, they served as sounding boards, experts and advocates for 1,650 children and families in New Hanover County.
The Senior Resource Center’s social workers provide quality and responsive services to more than 1,600 older adults and their families each year. Their goal is to promote social, physical, economic and emotional well-being, while encouraging maximum independence and improving their quality of life.
Their home-based services allow seniors to stay in their homes longer, and just last year, they assessed 584 homebound seniors for the home delivered meals program. They are a resource for seniors’ health independence, protection, advocacy and community enrichment.
Social workers connect older adults with transportation, long-term planning, and housing services, as well activities and congregate meals at the center. They provide a vital link for seniors with community organizations to help with behavioral health, hospice, legal services, home repairs and more. Social workers assist family caregivers with information, respite services and support to maintain their own well-being while caring for their loved one.
I could go on about the outstanding, quality services our county’s social workers provide, but I think you get it. Their work is making an impact in remarkable ways each day, and we are fortunate to have these heroes in New Hanover County.
So, I hope you join me in thanking a social worker this month – and every day – for their advocacy, support and encouragement that improve lives and strengthen our community.