6th Annual Child Placement Conference
Award Winners

Case Manager of the Year
Mary Edith Bush

Mary Edith Bush was employed by the Early County DFCS in February 1974 and plans to retire this year. She has managed to maintain the high level of enthusiasm and energy that she brought with her over 32 years ago. She has a deep sense of caring and concern for the families she serves and constantly strives to assist them toward self-sufficiency while protecting the children. Ms. Bush currently is a Social Service Case Manager, and carries a foster care caseload for Early County. She cares about their feelings and needs ‘her children’ and is always resourceful in looking for ways to meet their needs. She works with community volunteers and sister agencies to ensure that each child in her caseload has toys from Santa, Easter Baskets, pageant dresses, school supplies, or whatever is needed. Ms. Bush has given herself beyond job requirements.Ms. Bush takes a personal interest in her children. She attends school activities including football games, plays, and graduations. She writes “letters from home” to two of her teen foster children who are now college students. Older youth have become a large part of the foster care caseload. She has worked diligently to help these young people achieve independent living, a task requiring her to be flexible and innovative. Ms. Bush routinely responds to calls from children who are no longer in foster care, but still rely on her for advice and support. She really a personal connection to the families of children that she serves.Ms. Bush personifies “bringing your values to work”. She treats families and children like they are her own. She advocates for relative placements and family reunification. She helps other case managers to stop and think about the long term effects of foster care on children, and is ever mindful of best interest of the child and his/her need for a permanent home. Ms. Bush is a leader in her unit. She is an encourager and role model; always asking “what can I do to help you?” Fellow employees state that she is a “stabilizing force” that she “refuses to let others fail.” She readily shares her veteran worker knowledge with others, while also helping them to accept and embrace the new practices and inevitable changes that take place in our child welfare and welfare reform systems. All of Ms. Bush’s casework shows a high level of commitment to professional standards.

Friend of Children
Dr. Jody S. Tarleton

Dr. Jody S. Tarleton is definitely a friend of Children. She has worked in the field of mental health and corrections for 18 years. In 1988, she began her career working with adolescent females at what was known as Hillside Psychiatric Hospital.  She continued to help young people when she transitioned into being a counselor for older adolescents at The Art Institute of Atlanta. She began working with males with sexual issues at Project Adventure when she came to direct the Legacy program. Many witnessed first hand her care and concern for youth who needed support and guidance. She demonstrated an empathy that carried through to all youth in the program. She is devoted to making the lives of the youth better through service to their families. She initiated a parent group which continues to be a strong part of the curriculum. Later in her career she worked with adolescents at CHRIS homes where she was the Operations Director of more than nine group homes in Metro Atlanta. She delighted in making homes where children felt safe to sleep. Later she started her own construction company which designs group homes for kids. These homes have unique features to help youth feel safe and loved. She is currently employed with the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice as the Program Manager for the Youth Offender Reentry Project which strives to keep youth out of detention and off drugs. Dr. Tarleton has been a national speaker at conferences and learning institutes for over ten years. Her energy level and enthusiasm for helping youth and educating care givers are among her strongest assets. Dr. Tarleton is a professional held in high regard.

Juvenile Court Attorney of the Year
Tammy Griner

Tammy Griner is the SAAG for the Pike County DFCS. She has worked as a SAAG for ten years with Spalding and Pike Counties. Tammy takes a great deal of pride in the work as our SAAG. She brings a high degree of professionalism to the cases under her charge. She spends time with Case Managers each month to prepare for court. She is knowledgeable about the work we are doing with the families and children. She is an advocate for children and their permanency. Tammy works with all to ensure efforts toward reunification or TPR are accomplished. She provides us with training in court room procedures and effective testimony and gives us copies of current law. She makes sure all staff she works with are prepared and trained. She celebrates accomplishments and goals achieved. She has a passion for the work she does and is never afraid of the extra work nor the court room for the best interests of the children and families. She is a team-player, works well with the Judges, other attorneys and the GAL. We at DFCS really appreciate all she does for us, our children and families. Tammy demands excellence from each of us and this has proven beneficial for our children and the outcomes of each case.

Leadership Award
Honorable Sammy Jones

As Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Court of Fulton County for nearly fifteen year, the Honorable Sammy Jones has also been an outspoken champion for legislative change even when the changes he has advocated for are politically unpopular, present risk to him professionally, and present no possibility of gain to him personally. Despite political landmines and opposition by persons responsible for his own appointment as juvenile court judge, Judge Jones was an outspoken advocate for legislation introduced during the 2006 session that would have given juvenile courts of Georgia the authority to hear adoption cases that arise out of foster care matters. Judge Jones gave selflessly of his time in pursuit of this policy change and made countless appearances before legislative committees and members of the General Assembly. He did so, often at the last minute and with little notice, with nothing to gain personally since he already hears these adoptions through a special agreement with the Presiding Superior Court Judge in his circuit. While the bill did not pass in 2006, Judge Jones is poised to resume the fight in 2007. Thank goodness we have professionals like Judge Joes who do not fear controversy or political risk when it is in the best interest of the children we serve for someone to speak out for change.

Supervisor of the Year
Pat Granger

Pat Granger is a powerful resource in the DeKalb County Department of Family and Children Services. She is someone who is not only great at her job, but makes a point in learning the policy and laws that give her staff the authority and direction to do this work. Her monthly unit meetings are not just updates on how cases are going or informational sessions on changes in policy; she literally quizzes her staff on timeframes, policy, resources, and many other issues. She genuinely wants her staff to become better and improve. It is well known that if you arrive in Pat Granger’s Unit, you will be challenged and you will grow. So many other case managers have moved to other positions, not because they were tired of the work and burnt out, but because Pat Granger had developed them into more than just case managers. If DFCS wants to train better supervisors, then it would be wise to have them train under Pat Granger. She would show them that a supervisor is not a task master but a mentor and a leader. As a supervisor, Pat Granger has not lost touch with what it means to be a frontline worker. She makes sure that the hard cases and the easy cases are evenly distributed. After the Kenny A agreement came into effect, she made sure that the case managers did not receive cases that were too far away if they already had similar cases. She made sure that everyone had an opportunity to file a TPR or work with an infant who just came into care. If she saw that someone was stressed out and needed help or time off, she made sure that they were able to take care of themselves. It is not possible to speak about Pat Granger’s contribution to children in DeKalb County and the state of Georgia without speaking about the countless children who have experienced her involvement. Almost 140 cases have passed through her hands, the vast majority of them were successfully adopted. This does not include the countless other cases that she has helped many other adoption workers move towards permanency. She has and continues to be a top performer.    

Volunteer of the Year
Jill Hesterlee

Jill Hesterlee became a Court Appointed Special Advocate in April 2004. As an advocate, Jill’s eyes and heart were opened to the many needs of foster children. In turn, she opened the eyes and hearts of her fellow church members at Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church. On her first CASA case, Jill advocated for two little girls to be reunited with their parents. Jill realized that the actual room the children were to return to would not meet standards required for placement. Jill recruited a friend from church and they launched into a successful campaign to remake the children’s room. The homecoming became a successful reality. The funding for this was accomplished through donations to the church in an account which was set up called Room For A Child. In another case, Jill secured assistance from a friend at church and another CASA volunteer to guide a teenager to the goal of productive independence. The community became involved in providing a home temporarily rent-free, furnishings for the home, and a computer. The teenager is showing signs that she will quickly be able to obtain her GED. Room For A Child is providing for the monthly expenses of food, utilities, and transportation. Jill and others will assist in securing part-time employment followed by full-time employment as soon as the GED is accomplished. Jill also serves as the coordinator at Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church for the Safe Havens Visitation Program which provides supervised visitation for foster children and their biological families. Jill Hesterlee is well deserving of recognition for efforts in serving as an advocate for children.

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Updated by Normer Adams on 01/20/10 05:54 AM -0500                                  .