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WV Social Worker Of The Year “Called To The Job”

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January 25, 2010

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The West Virginia Social Worker of the Year says for her it's not a job, it's a calling. Paula Taylor is the Community Services Manager for the Marion/Monongalia District of the state Department of Health and Human Resources. She and her staff of about 100 are the people who pretty much hold the safety net together for two counties, she says, and their work can be hugely stressful. It can even be dangerous: A Lincoln County social worker was killed on the job in 2008.

However, Taylor says, the job has its rewards. For example, one young person she helped went on to become a social worker herself.

"I ran into her father somewhere and he said 'You know what she's doing now?' And I said, 'No, I don't.' Then he told me, and he added, 'She still talks about you - what you did for her.'"

In her nearly 30 years with the department, she hasn't seen much of a change in the number of cases filed, she says, but one big change is that social workers have gotten better at recognizing their clients' problems.

West Virginia social service agencies often have trouble keeping qualified people, which adds to the caseload, which in turn lowers worker retention. But in spite of the heavy workload, seeing people at their worst and the stress of making tough calls, Taylor says she couldn't do anything else.

"The jobs that people do here are not jobs everybody could do. You have to be a compassionate person, and you have to take a lot of things in stride. I just feel like it's what I was called to do."

Taylor was named Social Worker of the Year by the West Virginia chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV