Steamboat Springs When children are at risk, there isn't much caseworker Tina Harlow won't do to protect them.
"She takes her job and its potential impact upon the children and families she 'touches' with the utmost respect," wrote Michael Sidinger, caseworker supervisor for the Routt County Department of Human Services. He nominated Harlow for the statewide 2008 Excellence in Practice Awards.
"Tina's humanness is obvious to anyone who really knows her. The fact that she rarely hears a 'thank you' from her clients does not dissuade her from her job," Sidinger added in his nomination application.
Harlow took first place for her role as social caseworker for the Routt County Department of Human Services. She was recognized at the Colorado Summit on Children, Youth and Families last week at the Keystone Resort and Conference Center.
The EIP Awards were established in 2000 to recognize county caseworkers, supervisors, administrators, county units or other county staff members across the state who have excelled in the field of child welfare throughout the previous year.
"There are thousands and thousands of people in 64 counties across the state who can be nominated for an award," said Jody Martinez, customer relations specialist for Child Welfare Services in Colorado and one of eight judges on the 2008 EIP Awards Committee. "There were 24 people nominated, and Tina had the highest score of everyone."
In Routt County, there have been 186 referrals in the past year, for cases including child abuse, neglect, parent alienation, service requests and many other issues, Sidinger said.
"This is my passion," Harlow said Wednesday in her office on Sixth Street. "It's about the small successes and milestones I get to see - like a high school graduation for a child that wasn't expected to graduate.
"We have poverty here, and people don't often realize we have poverty. People in poverty struggle for things the rest of us take for granted," she continued. "The vast majority of our neglect cases are poverty-related."
Sidinger credits the department's successes to relationships with other community providers and a strong, compassionate team in the office.
"We're just a microcosm of what happens in larger counties," Sidinger said.
Harlow said seeing the challenges some families face can be difficult, but she highlighted the positive results from her work.
"It's about hope. I believe, if we can positively alter a childhood, then we can positively alter their adulthood and that, in turn, positively alters society," Harlow said.
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