The Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS), Child Welfare Division is celebrating National Social Work Month in March. Social work is inherent in the work done by the Child Welfare Division and other areas at ODHS, which annually helps 1.5 million Oregon residents through all stages of life.
As part of National Social Work Month, two outstanding caseworkers, Sarah Dielman, Clatsop County and Skye Hopkins, Washington County have earned the annual Tom Moan Memorial Award. Families, community organizations, Child Welfare Division employees and partners who have worked with these two women submitted nominations describing their exceptional work.
Tom Moan (1940-1985) spent his entire professional career as a child welfare caseworker and administrator in Oregon. He recognized that those most committed to child welfare often go unrecognized. Upon his death, Tom Moan’s family, friends and colleagues created the Tom Moan Memorial Award to honor excellent child welfare casework practice.
Sarah Dielman is an Adoption Worker with 18 years of experience in Clatsop County.
Here is what Dielman said about receiving this award:
“I am so honored (and shocked) to have been presented with this award. I could have never imagined earning these accolades. It feels pretty surreal,” said Dielman.
For me personally, if I can make an impact in one person’s situation, I have succeeded. That can be as small as listening to someone’s story to something much bigger, like making sure a child is safe in their home or helping a family finalize an adoption. The job can often feel very heavy, but it’s those positive things that keep me doing it! I have found my niche in adoption work and that has become my passion over the years. I still shed tears at times and when I don’t shed those tears is when I need to be concerned,” Dielman said.
Here are some of the things those nominating Dielman had to say about her:
“She really believes in what she does, and in the best interest of the children AND resource parents. She is to be gushed over! Good hearted, sweet and professional. She is a natural at this work- she goes above and beyond to help.”
“In looking at state goals to finalize adoptions within 12 months of being legally free, with Sarah as the worker, we meet this goal 100%! This sets her apart! She values permanency for children so much – her daily duty to go above and beyond in these cases for what is required.”
“I love Sarah. There were many times where we have felt overwhelmed by being resource parents. Caseworkers go alongside us through all of it. She stands by to keep kids safe – she keeps a smile on her face as she goes through the hard and joy together. The excitement and compassion for the job, families and individuals is amazing and continues. She fights for our needs- attention, work and advocacy for the resource family.
Skye Hopkins has been a Child Welfare Permanency Worker with the Hillsboro Branch for the past eight years.
Here is what Hopkins said about receiving this award:
“It really is something special as we aren’t often recognized for the work we do,” she said.
She said she approaches her work in this manner: “Every day is a new day, an opportunity to try something new, to do something different or to simply just try again. What was so yesterday may not be so today and definitely does not have be so tomorrow. The goal is reunification so let’s come up with a plan for how “WE” are going to get there.”
Here are some of the things those nominating Hopkins had to say about her:
Skye is incredibly committed to serving children, families, and communities. She will drop anything to help someone, especially her clients and coworkers. She is always there when needed, even if she is out of the office.
Skye takes each case she is given as though it is the first case she has worked on. She takes the time to learn the wants and needs of each family, she spends the time getting to know how parents were raised and how that impacts their parenting of their own children, she does her best to check any bias that she may have at the door whenever she interacts with her families. I have witnessed Skye engage with parents on her caseload in a way that they feel in control of the decisions that are being made, that their feelings are valid and taken into consideration, and that their children are as important to Skye as they are to the parent(s).
“Skye clearly believes that children do best growing up in a family and she goes above and beyond to achieve that goal. She sees the individual needs of a family and addresses those directly rather than a one size fits all approach. As noted previously (a couple of times but I think it’s important), her ability to interact with parents in an honest, straight forward manner helps to provide better outcomes for the families. That same approach is apparent in court. When responding to questions, the answers are always straight forward, clear, and concise. I have seen the respect she is given by the local judges and I share that same respect for her.”
“National Social Work month is a time to recognize that those who do social work are important to our world and our community well-being,” Child Welfare Director Rebecca Jones Gaston said.
“We are exceptionally proud of both Sarah’s and Skye’s work serving and strengthening the children and families of Clatsop and Washington Counties and throughout Oregon. We deeply appreciate the support from the communities they serve in nominating these outstanding Child Welfare workers. Rolf Moan, Tom Moan’s son and committee chair, noted a common thread in all the nominee and awardee interviews: a belief that the circumstances these children and families faced were temporary and that they could play a role to help children and families reach their full potential. Both Skye and Sarah reflect crucial engagement skills that help all involved work alongside each other to address challenges and reach beneficial outcomes. These skills are also important components of the Vision for Transformation and the child welfare system we are working towards.”
This year’s awardees will attend the National Association of Social Work Conference in Washington DC as part of their recognition. The annual conference highlights best practices and developments in the field of social work. All expenses for the award are raised privately by ODHS staff and the Tom Moan award committee.
Honorable mentions for the award include: Anna Rios, Nina Foster, Liselott Hernandez Olivera, Thomas Hodge, Cathy Coleman, Twyla Kelley, Joseph McUne, Rebekah Lawrence, Cynthia Ramirez, Lila Wade, Dominique Rich, Jennifer Jones, Sally Johns, Leslie Hinds, Kiana Bustamante, Ashley Burgess, Melissa Jacobs, Zachary Tharp, Wayne Kohnke.
The National Association of Social Workers organizes Social Work Month to educate the public about the invaluable contributions of the profession. More information is available at www.socialworkmonth.org.