CWS Holds Annual Social Worker Appreciation Event

Every day, social workers may encounter abuse or neglect, including extreme cases resulting in injuries or even death. A big part of their job is listening to families who may be relaying traumatic experiences and dealing with the after-effects.

When a family or child is in crisis, a social worker may have to interrupt their time off to answer that call. For some vulnerable members of our community, the social worker may be the only advocate they have.

On top of that, many San Diego County Child Welfare Services social workers devote their off hours to efforts to improve the lives of children and families.

Friday, some of the social workers who give their personal time to volunteering to improve the lives of families in our communities were honored at the County’s annual social worker appreciation event. Each year, one is singled out for the Jay Hoxie Award, given to recognize a social worker for commitment to others through volunteering in the community.

It was presented this year to Juanita Venegas, a protective services worker in the south region. She uses her social worker skills to serve her community in National City. She’s a member of that city’s Law Enforcement Citizens Review Board, a youth mentor and a volunteer at a skilled nursing facility.

Juanita Venegas was honored with the annual Jay Hoxie Award. The nominees for the award: Brenda Ferro, Jen Rivas, Venegas and Neda Rivera. Not pictured is Nicole Espinosa.

Juanita Venegas was honored with the annual Jay Hoxie Award. The nominees for the award: Brenda Ferro, Jen Rivas, Venegas and Neda Rivera. Not pictured is Nicole Espinosa.

“We are so proud of Juanita for being recognized and honored with the Jay Hoxie award this year,” said Barbara Jimenez, HHSA South Region general manger. “Her dedication in working with children and youth at work and as a volunteer is unsurpassed, and her tireless efforts in ensuring her communities are safe is remarkable.

“Her passion and empathy are evident in everything she does and there is no other person that is more deserving than Juanita for this award.”

The Jay Hoxie Award is named after an HHSA social worker who died in a car accident in 1990. He was well known for his generous spirit and community involvement.

The other nominees for the Hoxie award were:

Brenda Ferro, North Region – Ferro volunteers at Camp Connect and Grandparents Raising Grandchildren events throughout the year. She has provided translation services at the GRG events and served as the Child Welfare Services liaison that helped plan, coordinate and implement the 2018 symposium.

Jen Rivas, East Region – Rivas provides ongoing mentorship to teenage girls through her church. She also coordinates outings and activities for the mentor program. Rivas also collected food, clothing and other essentials for families affected by wildfires in her community of Alpine.

Neda Rivera, Central Region – Rivera travels to Tijuana a few times a month to deliver food, clothing, and children’s items to shelters. She also volunteers for the Chaldean Church/Catholic Diocese and serves as the mental health clinician for Saint Pius Catholic Church, working with refugees.

left to right: Kim Giardina, acting CWS director; Gonzalez, Gapuz, and CWS director Cathi Palatella.

left to right: Kim Giardina, acting CWS director; Gonzalez, Gapuz, and CWS director Cathi Palatella.

Nicole Espinosa, Centralized Child Welfare Services – Espinosa has been involved with Camp Connect since its inception in 2008, working with medically fragile participants and serving as a lead coordinator for the event. During 2018, she volunteered 87 hours of her own time for the program.

Meredith Gapuz and Hector Gonzalez from the CWS eligibility team were also recognized at the event for their outstanding customer service.

Don’t Miss the Ethics Awareness Month Fair

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March is Ethics Awareness Month. What better time to strengthen our culture of doing what is right!

To mark the month, the Office of Ethics and Compliance is hosting the sixth annual Ethics Awareness Month Information Fair from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., March 28 at the County Operation Center’s plaza. There will be music, swag, giveaways and information about County departments and other resources. More than 30 exhibitors will be present, including County Library, Environmental Health, First 5 San Diego, Registrar of Voters and the Sheriff’s Department.

Plus, OEC Director Claudia Silva will speak on “Everyday Ethics” at 12:15 p.m. in the chambers.

“Ethics Awareness Month is an opportunity for everyone to reaffirm our commitment to do what is right, uphold the highest standards of conduct, prevent waste, and embrace our differences,” said Silva.

If you cannot make it to the fair, there are still opportunities for you to champion ethics in the workplace. Employees can participate in the following ways:

  • Take the Ethics 101 online training. Head over to LMS and search for “Ethics 101.” The video is just 8 minutes long.

  • Request that OEC conduct an on-site ethics training or speak at an upcoming department meeting.

  • Check out the "Ethics In-a-Box” training resources for managers/supervisors.

If you have a question about what is ethical in the meanwhile, don’t wait to get answers. The first place employees can turn if they have a concern about possible unethical, illegal or unsafe activity is their supervisor.

If an employee isn’t comfortable going to a supervisor or other manager, or if their concern relates to a supervisor or manager, they can call OEC or the County’s Ethics Hotline at 866-549-0004. The hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is operated by a third party. Employees can report concerns anonymously and can also do so online.

Your Donations at Work

Thanks to employee donations, the County Employees’ Charitable Organization (CECO) awarded a total of $139,622 in grants to 88 nonprofit programs located throughout the San Diego region Tuesday!

Throughout the year, employees donate to CECO through payroll deductions and by supporting fundraisers. Mark your calendar for the next CECO event—a Padres game at Petco Park.

Housing and Community Development Office Closed After Truck Hits Building

At about 6:00 a.m. Monday, the San Diego Police Department discovered a U-Haul truck had crashed into the entrance to the County Health and Human Services Agency’s Housing and Community Development Office at 3989 Ruffin Road.

There were no reports of injuries and the suspect was not found at the site. San Diego police inspected the vehicle and found no explosives or other devices and determined the vehicle posed no further threat.

Although the building is currently closed, Housing and Community Development Services is continuing to serve the public. Approximately 120 staff work in the office and are working from alternative working locations until the building is reopened. The staff have been notified of the temporary arrangements.

Potter Promoted to Clerk of the Board

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After a few years in the number two position, Andrew Potter has taken over as the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors.

Potter replaces David Hall, who retired March 2. He was appointed by the Board of Supervisors on Oct. 31, following Hall’s retirement announcement.

The office provides administrative support to the Board of Supervisors and a variety of services including access to the official records, passport services, notary public services, and applications for property tax assessment appeals. The department has 29 employees.

You may recognize Potter as he has clerked many Board of Supervisor meetings since joining the County in 2015 as assistant Clerk of the Board. Combined with an earlier stint, he has spent eight years in the department.

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He has really hit the ground running in his new position. While getting ready for a remodel of the board chamber at the County Administration Center and temporarily relocating his entire department in June to accommodate the CAC’s Major Systems Renovation Project, he is looking for technology solutions to streamline all public-facing services, increase customer service satisfaction and enhance public records access.

“I want to build on the department’s past successes by pursuing new and innovative ideas to modernize processes, improve access to official Board records, and foster relationships with our internal and external partners,” he said.

Stepping into Potter’s position as Assistant Clerk is Erin Demorest. She joined the County last month from the City of San Diego where she served as the Director of Legislative Affairs.

Employees Can Join Formal Dress Drive at Two County Sites

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All 33 of the County’s Library branches are collecting gently used formal gowns for any high school student who needs one for the prom or other special occasion.

County employees who would like to join the collection drive can drop off special occasion dresses at two additional sites.

Library headquarters at the County Operations Center is taking dress donations between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at 5560 Overland Ave., Room 110, now through April 15.

The bookmobile will also accept gowns during its regular Friday stop at the County Administration Center from noon to 4 p.m. this week.

The gowns will be donated free at Library giveaway events at the Vista branch on April 20 and the El Cajon branch on April 27. Teenagers can sign up to get a dress through the Princess Project.

PerkSpot: Save on Tax Preparation

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The tax deadline is quickly approaching. Filing your taxes can be stressful, but PerkSpot is offering County employees 20 percent off at H&R Block, up to $30 off TaxAct or up to $20 off TurboTax preparation services. Don’t wait until the last minute – take advantage of the savings today.

PerkSpot offers benefits and discounts through more than 400 service providers and retailers. Go to SDCounty.PerkSpot.com and shop. If you are new, click on “Create an Account” to register.

Celebrating Generational Diversity in the Workplace

Take a minute to think about the people in your office: Your director, your supervisor, your administrative specialist, your IT coordinator, your counterpart. More than likely, you have a couple, if not a few, different generations working within your own team. And that’s something to celebrate!

In December 2018, the County of San Diego’s workforce was comprised of:

  • 3.2 percent Post-Millennials (or Generation Z)

  • 39.8 percent Millennials

  • 39.9 percent Generation Xers

  • 16.8 percent Baby Boomers

  • 0.2 percent employees from the Silent/Greatest Generation

“For the first time, we’ve got five generations working side by side,” said Carmina Vasquez, president of the Emerging Workforce Association.

The EWA is one of many employee resource groups here at the County. The group was created by millennials to help bridge the generational gap and recently hosted its “inaugural signature event to honor generational diversity in the workplace.” Not only was this event to celebrate generational diversity, but it was also a chance for said generations to learn a thing or two about each other.

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As part of the event, a panel of notable County employees that represented different generations spoke on topics ranging from legacy to common misconceptions of each respective generation:

  • Andrew Strong, CAO Chief of Staff, identifies as a “cusper” or between Gen X and millennial.

  • Don Steuer, Assistant Chief Administration Officer/Chief Operating Officer, identifies as a Baby Boomer

  • Nadia Moshirian Binderup, CAO Staff Officer, identifies as a millennial

  • Marvin Mayorga, Management Fellow with the Probation Department, identifies as a millennial

“First of all, when you think of Boomers, you think of people who are work-centric, goal-oriented,” said panelist Steuer. “And the misconception of it is we’re inflexible or unwilling to listen to other opinions or new opinions or creative ideas. But I feel like that couldn’t be further from the truth. In a way, Boomers feed off the younger generations.”

Millennial panelist Moshirian Binderup quashed the misperception of her generation’s constant need for affirmation.

“I constantly get teased about the ‘gold star’ for any type of recognition,” she said. “We don’t need those physical awards – we thrive off guidance. We love teamwork.”

Steuer was quick to interrupt and ask Nadia if she could provide some technical guidance to Strong, who was having microphone difficulties during the event.

“See? Millennials aren’t tech savvy,” quipped Strong.

The playful nature between the different generations was testimony to just how complementary different generations can be to each other. Each panelist brought in different perspectives regarding leaving a legacy at the County and the definition of “emerging,” and yet they shared a common thread when it came to their words of wisdom for their fellow employees regardless of generations – embrace shared wisdom.

“Find a mentor who’s in this organization,” said Strong. “Or be a mentor! Share that knowledge and institutional knowledge you have.”

Mayorga, who’s been with the County just two years, was a bit modest when sharing his advice.

“I laugh because I’m so young and new to the County,” he said. “But I encourage people in my generation to have patience. Opportunities come and go, and sometimes we need to remind ourselves that every step we take is one step closer to what we’re working toward – patience is very key.”

His sentiment is one shared by all of the panelists, who spoke throughout the event to the importance of learning from others and from your experience to help you grow inside an organization.

“It comes down to the journey of leadership. There are three primary components to that. One is talent, which we all have, one is wisdom, which we continue to gain, and one is influence, which some of us never reach,” Steuer said, gaining chuckles from the audience. “But I think it’s important to remember when emerging – you have the talent, and now you have to continue to grow and take personal responsibility to gain that wisdom to be able to influence not only the culture of our organization but also the decisions that are made regardless of what level of the organization you represent.”

Learn more about the County’s Diversity and Inclusion initiative or take a look at EWA and see what they’re all about.