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‘Care’ matters to Clayton DFCS’ top employee

Photo by Curt Yeomans
Connie Cox (left), an economic support screener and customer service representative for the Clayton County Department of Family and Children’s Services, listens to Georgia DFCS Region 16 Director Cathy Ratti. Cox was recently named the county-level department’s “Employee of the Year.”

Photo by Curt Yeomans Connie Cox (left), an economic support screener and customer service representative for the Clayton County Department of Family and Children’s Services, listens to Georgia DFCS Region 16 Director Cathy Ratti. Cox was recently named the county-level department’s “Employee of the Year.”

Connie Cox does not go very long in a conversation without flashing a warm, friendly smile.

Cox has been an economic support screener and customer service representative for much of the nearly 10 years that she has been employed by the Clayton County Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS).

She is one of the people Clayton DFCS clients talk to when they have questions, concerns or complaints about their food stamps, or Medicaid coverage. She sometimes has to deal with angry clients, but she said the key is to handle them with compassion, and a sympathetic ear.

“Sometimes, they understand that we’re doing the best we can, but they’re just aggravated with their own situation, and sometimes, people just need a kind word, to say, ‘Hey, I understand what you’re going through,’” Cox said.

“I’ve never been on food stamps, but I’m not wealthy by any means, so I do understand [some of the clients’ challenges].”

Cox was recently named the Clayton County DFCS Employee of the Year for the care she shows to the agency’s clients. She said she was humbled by the recognition, because while she has been named “Employee of the Month” several times in the past, this is her first time winning the “Employee of the Year” honor. Even after a few days had passed, she said, she was still on “Cloud Nine” about the award.

“I was shocked [when the announcement was made],” she said. “There was another employee, who is very good, and has been here quite a while, and I was really expecting her to get it.”

The new “Employee of the Year” spends half of her work day answering phones in the customer service department, and then spends the other half logging in reviews for the agency’s case-review team. She started out with the agency, working customer service for the department’s child protective services division, but eventually moved over to handling her current duties.

She explained that working in the child protective services division, and then with food stamps and Medicaid clients, has allowed her to see the variety of people served by the department.

Cox did not just come to Clayton County 10 years ago, to work for the county’s DFCS office. She is a native, and graduated from Forest Park High School in 1978. She said she loves her job, and is thankful to have it. She added that she believes helping the less fortunate — in the county she grew up in — was something she was meant to do. She explained that she likes working with the public, and finds it to be a “rewarding” job.

“You’re just needed,” Cox said.

She added that she approaches her job by taking the viewpoint that the tables could turn any day, and she could be the person needing the department’s assistance, while one of the clients she is assisting now could become the person who assists her.

“I always remember that we’re only one paycheck away from being on the other side,” she said.

Her supervisors had nothing but glowing comments about her, when asked what kind of employee she is. “I love Connie, she’s very deserving of this honor,” said Cathy Ratti, the director for DFCS Region 16, which includes Clayton County.

Interim Clayton County DFCS Director Lisa Spivey said the employees vote for a co-worker to chose as Employee of the Month, and the department’s Board of Directors then interviews each of those top employees to decide who will be chosen as the “Employee of the Year.”

Spivey added additional praise for Cox, by saying she was “very dedicated” to doing her job well, and to helping her co-workers. “She’s not only dedicated, she’s willing to help anyone,” the interim director said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s her job, or her responsibilities. If she sees somebody that needs help, she’s going to help them.”

And, Cox said, she plans on sticking around Clayton County, and its Department of Family and Children’s Services office, for the long haul. It is the county she grew up in, after all.

“I plan to retire from here — but not anytime soon,” she said, with a friendly smile, and a warm laugh.