On The Case: Four Caseworker Dads Serving Prowers County
May 12, 2022
What do four dads with backgrounds in law enforcement, public schools, oil and gas, childcare and hospital administration have in common? They have all chosen to become child welfare caseworkers for Prowers County. They chose Prowers County for a variety of reasons from its low cost of living and opportunities for career advancement to the small-town vibe and a desire to live close to nature. While their varied experience and backgrounds make this group uncommon in the child welfare field, they work closely together to ensure they are effectively finding ways to help strengthen families in one of the least affluent counties in the state.
Since some families in Prowers County struggle with generational poverty, caseworker and former school employee Rob Damiani wants to ensure the community understands that poverty does not equal neglect. “Families in communities like ours often just need to be connected to resources to get back on track,” said Rob. “As a single dad myself, I know how hard it is to be everything from nurturer to disciplinarian so I want to make sure families understand I am there to help connect them to the services and resources they need.”
For many of the towns in Prowers County, local schools are effective avenues for building both community and connections. “Teachers and school administrators are often the first ones to identify if a family is struggling,” said caseworker and former oil and gas industry worker Jake Harris. “During the pandemic, some kids just didn’t want to go to online school. Instead of focusing on educational neglect, we worked with schools and families to create an environment that normalized online learning.”
Like communities across Colorado, many families in Prowers Counties saw or directly experienced an increase in substance-use disorders during the pandemic. “Families struggling with substance use often need resources beyond treatment,” said caseworker and former law enforcement officer Harold Brewer. “In Prowers County, we offer a Collaborative Management Program, which means caseworkers are one spoke in a hub of providers working together to create a unified plan to support all of a family’s needs.”
Opportunities to interact with the families they support in less formal settings is common for these caseworkers. “As a dad living in Prowers County, I sometimes run into the families I serve at schools, at the grocery store and even at kids sporting events,” said caseworker and former hospital administrator Gabe Benabides. “Parenting is hard, and I have learned a lot through my work. All families have challenges. I try to use my experience as a parent to inform my approach to the families I am working with.”
Adult and Family Manager, Courtney Holt, who also supervises the local county-run child care center, adds that focusing on a family’s strengths instead of their lack of resources helps our staff build relationships with the families they serve. “Plus, with many of our child welfare team being parents, we are often seen as role models in the community. Parents can see that we are not perfect and often need assistance just like other parents.”
This post is part of the CO4Kids On The Case blog series that shares insights from Colorado child welfare caseworkers about the important work they do and why they chose a career in social work.