By Daniel Silliman
The disabled mother of a one-month-old boy, Monica Lynn Martin looked at her $235 welfare check and said she wanted to work.
Sixteen years later, she remembered the moment.
"I was like, 'I don't want to sit at home,'" Martin said. " 'I want to work. I want to get out and work. I know I've got these issues, but I've got to set an example for my son.'"
Today, Martin's son Karl is a student at Stockbridge High School, where he plays junior varsity baseball, and Martin works as a Family Independence Case Manager at the Department of Family and Children Services.
This week, Martin was recognized as the DFCS Employee of the Year 2007.
She has been working at DFCS for more than eight years, and said she sees her job as a way to help people just as she was helped.
"I wanted to be able to give back to the system -- I don't know if 'system' is the right thing to say. There were people there in the system who helped me," she said. Along the way, Martin said, she has been helped by a lot of people.
She was helped by someone at counseling, who told her about Vocation Rehabilitation, a service which helped pay her way through college. She got a two-year degree in sociology from Clayton College and State University, and then earned a Bachelor of Social Work from Georgia State University.
She was helped by Chuck Fischer, now the deputy director of Clayton County DFCS. He gave her an internship and didn't care about her physical disabilities, but instead just told her to let him know what she could and couldn't do.
She was even helped, she said, by the welfare caseworker who didn't believe in her.
When he asked Martin what she intended to do with her degree, she said, "Well, maybe someday I'll be sitting there in your seat," and he said, "No." She remembers him adding, "I don't think so. The state won't hire you, because you're disabled."
That made her mad, Martin recalled, but it helped her press forward, too.
She was hired at the Clayton County office in November 1999, after more than six years receiving disability and welfare, and has been working there since.
"I try to encourage people," Martin said, trying to explain her approach to the job, "to realize they have to take care of themselves and take care of their families, because we're just here to provide a service, to help them get started."