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.
“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.
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.