Celebrating Colorado’s Child Welfare Workers

Thank you to everyone who recognized a child welfare staff during Child Welfare Worker Appreciation Week, September 11-15.  Nearly 50 child welfare staff across the state were nominated to be recognized. A committee of DCW staff will rate the nominations and choose five candidates to be recognized in person. The top candidates will also have the chance to be spotlighted in the bi-weekly Community Partner Newsletter. All nominees will receive a certificate of appreciation and gift. 

Below are just a few quotes from a few of the nominations discussing the ways child welfare workers support their colleagues, make positive contributions to agency culture and go above and beyond for Colorado children, youth and families.

Elena Martinez – Chaffee County DHS (nominated by Sarah Green, Chaffee County DHS)

“Elena demonstrates incredible capacity to think through problems and consider how to best meet families’ needs. She does this mostly through challenging and inspiring the staff to look at all angles of a problem, find the strengths in families and consider what services will most likely impact and support the needs of children and families. She is resourceful and knows who to speak to impact change. Elena is an incredible, knowledgeable, aware, quick witted, all inclusive leader. As staff we all are able to move through the challenging and difficult days feeling supported, working closer as a team and growing in knowledge and awareness. She takes time to invest in new workers and addresses difficult conversations with a team approach on how to learn from our mistakes. None of us have any idea how she herds and maintains this team of wild cats, but we are certainly all better because of her!”

Shantel Nelson – Morgan County DHS (nominated by Chrishelle Johnson, Morgan County) 

“Shantel is the first one to help and take something off someone’s plate so they can focus. Shantel also attends home visits with workers and guides them. Shantel’s knowledge is priceless and her experiences is valued by all who meet with her. She is fair but firm on the way things need to be for children’s safety.”

Jackie Webb – Denver County DHS (nominated by Angela Chambers, A New World Child Placements Agency) 

Jackie always shows up with a smiling face and is ready to provide whatever support is needed to the foster families and interacts with the children wonderfully. She is available when families need her, even if that is outside of her work hours. She is very knowledgeable about the system and she has a true passion for the work that she does and enjoys the time she spends with the kids on her caseload. She makes foster families feel supported and like a true member of the youth’s team. She makes visits fun, informational, and effective.” 

Elaina Jackson – Eagle County DHS (nominated by Skylar Hertzfeld, Eagle County DHS) 

“Elaina goes above and beyond to ensure her clients are served and advocated for and goes out of her way to think of creative solutions. She tasked with engaging community agencies across, counties and typically has several families with very unique barriers whom she  is supporting at one time. Elaina has an incredible work ethic and engages with her families as frequently as possible to make sure they are on track to achieve their goals. Elaina is very well-known within the El Jebel community and is highly respected. Community agencies reach out to Elaina on a daily basis to support families and trust the work she does. Elaina is one of the first ones to volunteer to help if a coworker is in need of support.”

Letisha Herrera – Pueblo County DHS (Nominated by Josette Jaramillo, Pueblo County DHS) 

“Letisha is always willing to help out her peers and go the extra mile for her kinship providers. Letisha never says no to a challenge and works extra hours to find placement for youth in care. She is straight forward and honest with her providers and is able to preserve placements by setting tough boundaries with youth and providers alike. Letisha answers texts, emails, and calls in her off hours to ensure placements are preserved and kin providers get their needs met. She is the gold standard for casework in Colorado.”

Meghan Burghard – Larimer County DHS (nominated by Maddie Darnell, The Willow Collective)  

“Meghan is a natural born leader. She has trained countless new caseworkers and is always the first to help other caseworkers navigate tough situations. Meghan is a bright light in this work and is always willing to step up to help others by taking red teams, consults, cases, running kids to and fro, and taking cases others might want to avoid. Meghan has been a part of several work groups to initiate change and has led the charge in redrafting policy to protect workers and families.“

Jennifer Palmer – Weld County DHS (nominated by Jaime Irwin, Weld County DHS)

“Jennifer is a great teammate who is easy to work with. She has excellent communication with internal staff as well as with providers and placements. She takes accountability for her work and actions and strives to do the best she can each day for the youth on her caseload. Jennifer is someone we can regularly count on to submit referrals in a timely manner and also have them filled out thoroughly. She is an exemplary employee and a kind, caring and passionate individual who truly exemplifies all the best qualities of a permanency caseworker and is here to make a difference and do her best work. She understands the overall big picture and works to eliminate systematic barriers and do the best that she can for children and families. Not only does she excel at meeting deadlines and completing paperwork, but her engagement with families and communication skills with professionals are unmatched.”

Cole McKinney – Montezuma County DSS, (nominated by Kelli Hargraves, MCDSS)

“Cole has provided service to the department for 10 years. Cole is one of the most experienced staff and they easily seek him out for advice and expertise. Cole has a natural ability to offer space to talk and learn without judgment. He is able to have tough conversations with both staff and families, and then guide either one to the resources they need to be successful. Cole is self-motivated to get the job done, and works diligently in his role. He is willing to help his team at any time. He is the back up lead for the team and easily takes on leadership roles and special projects.“

Megan Sandoval – Delta County DHS (nominated by Nicole Bennett, Delta County DHS)

“Megan is one of those rare people who have a contagious positive outlook on work and life.  Megan is skilled in empathy, the ability to recognize feelings of others and to share those feelings. Dedicated to intake, she is one of the first faces a family sees when interacting with child welfare. Due to this enthusiasm to help others, she consistently starts a case on a high level of respect and understanding between the families and our department to explain why DHS is involved and that we are here to help them succeed as parents or guardians and community members. When our department was short-staffed, Megan not only volunteered to take on more cases, but checked-in with other caseworkers to see if she could help them in any way. Megan is one of those workers that employer’s dream of having in the workplace, specifically for her drive to complete her work correctly, her positive attitude, and her ability to help others be in a positive place during work and life.”

Jacquelyn Wilnern – Fremont County DHS (nominated by Tonia Sutton, Fremont County DHS

“Jacquelyn (Jacqui) always goes above and beyond in her role as an ongoing caseworker. She meets clients where they are, in a trauma sensitive manner. As a lead caseworker, Jacqui goes above and beyond to help support her peers and the supervisors in the child welfare unit. She is always available for questions from others and is often the «go to» person her peers reach out to for guidance and support. Jacqui is also excited for any opportunity to discuss equity, diversity and inclusion within the agency as well as the populations the agency serves. As an anthropology student, where people come from, how their culture impacts them and the things they do are always part of Jacqui’s initial conversation with people when discussing policy or practice changes. Jacqui holds others accountable to her high standard of integrity and ensures that the staff around her use people first language and are cognizant of cultural differences.” 

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