Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
A second-grader's grumbling stomach drew Jemma Moses to the field of social work a decade ago.
Moses, now a social services case manager with the Clayton County Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS), said she was a college student at the time, majoring in education at Georgia State University, when she encountered the young elementary school-age student. It was at a charter school in Fulton County, and Moses said she was there to do her student teaching practicum.
She explained that while she was working with a class of second-graders, she heard the stomach of a young boy in the group begin to "growl" with hunger.
"I went to the teacher and said 'Do you have a snack machine because I don't think he's eating breakfast,'" Moses said. "And, she was like 'Oh, we'll talk to the social worker.' I said 'What does the social worker do?' She said 'Oh, she's going to go to the [youth's] home,' and I said 'THAT'S what I want to do.' And, I made it my career."
Moses, 36, was named the Clayton County "Department of Family and Children Services Employee of the Year" during a brief ceremony at the county's DFCS office in Jonesboro, on Wednesday morning.
As her name was announced, Moses' jaw dropped, and then she dropped her head into her hands, as she went to receive a plaque from Tom Mertl, the chairman of the Clayton County Department of Family and Children Services Board of Directors. She said she has been employed by Clayton County DFCS for nearly nine years, and has a bachelor's degree in social work from Georgia State University.
Moses said she also did her social work internship with Clayton County DFCS.
"It's overwhelming and it's unexpected [to be named 'Employee of the Year'] because I know I was up against a lot of other great employees," said Moses, after the ceremony. "I'm very excited because we all work to help families better themselves."
Mertl said Moses was highly praised in commentary that the board of directors received from her co-workers. The board is the group that has been picking the county's "Department of Family and Children Services Employee of the Year" since 1992, according to Mertl.
"This year's selection exemplifies hard work and commitment ... kind and compassionate customer service, a willingness to assist, an eagerness to accept new challenges, and encourages others to reach for achievement," Mertl said. "Some of a few words used by peers to describe this person are 'helpful,' 'dependable,' 'awesome team player,' 'dedicated,' 'excellent long-term employee' ...."
Moses said the thing about her job that she enjoys is helping children be happy. She explained she works with interstate placement of children, which means getting the youths adopted by, or placed in foster care, with families that live outside of Georgia. She explained she works with children who range in age from newborn, to 18-year olds.
"My No. 1 thing is just seeing children happy with a family that's going to care for them because they were in a tough situation, and now my job ... our job here, in my unit, is to make sure they are placed with families that's going to love them," she said. "So, seeing them smile, and be happy, makes it all worth while."
Jemma Moses, and her husband, John Moses, are the parents of two young boys, John Moses, Jr., who is 10, and Jarin, who is 6. She said being a parent to young children, helps her understand what the children she works with are going through. She also said her work, in turn, helps her understand what her sons may be going through at times.
"I think being a parent helps me with this job both ways," Jemma Moses said. "I think its a vice-versa because I see what my clients go through, and I know all I have to do is change the way I treat my kids at home ... and there will be something my son tells me I need to do, and I say 'Ooh, I need to relay that to this client, because she's got a 10-year old that she has this thing [issue]...."
Jemma Moses was also recognized as one of eight Clayton County DFCS employees of the month from 2010. She was the employee of the month in April 2010.
The other 2010 employees of the month recognized Wednesday included: Family Independence Case Manager Lucius Harris (January); Family Independence Case Manager (Lead Worker) Stacy Arnold (February); Social services adoption case manager Lanitra Wilson (March); Economic Support Screener Connie Cox (May); Economic Support Screener Mark Lawrimore (June); Adult Medicaid Case manager Tessa Lloyd (September), and Family Independence Case Manager Daphne Springfield (October).