Social Services Today

For DSS staff, ‘all people matter’
Mar. 08, 2014 @ 12:09 PM

March is National Social Work Month.  The National Association of Social Workers has chosen “All People Matter” as the theme to highlight the important role of social workers across the nation.

I heartily agree that all people matter, so I'm honored to be able to use my column this month to publicly recognize our caring and dedicated staff at Durham's Department of Social Services (DSS). In addition, I want to extend my appreciation to the community that supports the work of the agency.

The NASW selected this year’s theme "to help raise awareness about the American social work profession’s 116-year commitment to improving social conditions and quality of life opportunities for everyone. Social workers across the globe believe that all people have dignity and deserve respect...These values are essential to improving relationships within families, making social support systems more effective, and building stronger communities.” 

At DSS, this concept is not new. We are committed to treating everyone with dignity, regardless of their circumstances that bring them through our doors.  Part of the way we accomplish this is by having our work shaped by the Six Principles of Partnership developed by Appalachian Family Innovations at Appalachian State University:

1. Everyone deserves respect.

2. Everyone needs to be heard.

3. Everyone has strengths.

4. Judgments can wait.

5. Partners share power.

6. Partnership is a process.

These principles are a central component of providing effective and quality services by the dedicated social services employees.  From social workers to administrative assistants, everyone in our agency comes into contact with clients. And each of us is committed to strengthening our community by seeing to the needs of those who need our services.  Social services assist people from all walks of life to develop the tools and gather the resources to help themselves and their families to renew their hope for the future.

Over the past six months, our agency transitioned to a new building, bringing together staff that previously had worked at two different locations.  At the same time, we have adapted to new systems created by the state. This has given us the opportunity to reorganize some of our teams and processes.

Rather than let all of changes derail us, DSS staff members have risen to the task, rededicating themselves to learning from one another.  In the end, it is their dedication to making sure that we meet the needs of each of our clients -- because they all matter -- that fuels the staff.  I am fortunate and grateful to lead a team of public servants who truly are focused on the public and use the partnership principles to empower themselves and those we serve.

At the same time, I am thankful for our community partners who work closely with DSS to meet the needs of our fellow Durham residents.  Whether it is a large partner, such as Duke Medicine, or a smaller agency, such as Meals on Wheels, our partners join us in building a stronger community here in Durham.  Please join me in recognizing folks who truly make a difference in our community and ensure that all we use our the Principles of Partnership respect the needs of the population we serve and show that we understand that “All People Matter!”

Michael A. Becketts is the director of Durham County Department of Social Services.