Selfless sacrifices

Routt County Human Services worker honored by state for service, dedication to helping children

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— Routt County Human Services worker honored by state for service, dedication to helping children

Even after receiving a prestigious state award from the Colorado Department of Human Services, Michael Sidinger brushes it aside like it is no big deal.

After all, Sidinger's 26 years of work in child welfare has never been about himself but about the children and the families he and his staff attempt to help.

"I'm not one who toots his own horn," said Sidinger, who supervises Routt County's Human Services division of child welfare. "There are a lot of people that deserve this recognition. I'm humbled by it."

During a state conference last week, Sidinger was one of seven child welfare workers across the state recognized by the Colorado Division of Child Welfare.

On May 2, Sidinger was given the award by Jane Beveridge, director of the state division.

The award is given to recipients who show valuable service and dedication to helping children in the state. Recipients must also show outstanding leadership in the field.

Sidinger was nominated for the award by co-workers, which included his supervisor, Bob White, director of Routt County Human Services.

"We are real proud of him," White said of Sidinger. "It is quite an honor. He is respected statewide."

Sidinger, 51, has always had a knack for helping others that was present at a young age growing up in a Chicago suburb.

"I have had a human service mentality since I was a young kid," Sidinger said. "I have always wanted to do something like this."

At Western Illinois University, Sidinger earned bachelor's degrees in psychology and sociology in 1973.

Once out of college, Sidinger moved to Colorado and worked at the Climax mine in Leadville.

Sidinger would later return to Illinois, working with adolescents before returning to Colorado in 1975 when he took a job as a child welfare worker for Arapahoe County.

Sidinger and his wife, Pat Rada-Sidinger, moved to South Dakota in 1978 but returned to Colorado in 1980 when Sidinger took a child welfare position with Adams County.

In 1985, Sidinger was offered a child welfare job with the Routt County Department of Human Services and moved to Steamboat Springs.

Throughout his career, Sidinger said he has had his share of tough cases.

"This can be a tough job," he said. "It can be very difficult at times."

Sidinger and his staff are responsible for investigating anyone suspected of child abuse or neglect.

Sidinger and three case workers are responsible for protecting children in these situations.

"We get involved when there are tough situations within a family," he said. "What I find rewarding is the positive impact we can have on a family."

In Routt County, Sidinger has focused on child sexual abuse. He has established programs for prevention and treatment within the county.

Sidinger credits his award on the work of others within the department.

"I don't think things like this happen in a vacuum," he said. "I work with a great bunch of people. This is a statement about the department and the collaborative agencies we work with."

Polly St. James, an attorney for the department, is not surprised by Sidinger's reaction to the award.

"Mike is so humble," she said. "He accepted the award with humility."

Sidinger also credits his own family for supporting him throughout his career.

As a child welfare worker, Sidinger is on call and at times has had to skip out on his own family to help a family in need.

"Mike is incredibly dedicated to the work he does," St. James said.

Sidinger's son, Patrick, recently completed his freshman year at the University of Southern Colorado and his daughter Amelia is a student at Steamboat Springs High School.

"Moving here has worked out well," Sidinger said. "It is a great place to raise kids."

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