As evidenced throughout the last few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed our nation’s landscape, but through it all, one thing has remained certain – leaders in health and human services are needed now more than ever. This week in our new three-part series, Profiles of Courage: CHHS Alumni on the Frontlines, we’ll recognize some of our alumni. From healthcare workers to social service advocates to educators, each are making a bold difference in their communities. It is our honor to share their stories of courage.
Child Welfare Manager, Madera County Department of Social Services
B.A. – Social Work (2002), M.S.W. (2005)
For social work alumna, Shanel Moore, this profession is what she was called to do. As the COVID-19 situation ramped up in the Valley, she was ready and willing to continue to serve her community as the manager of child welfare services for the Madera County Department of Social Services. Moore and her social services team oversee nearly 500 children in the foster care system, as well as vulnerable populations in adult protective services.
With school closures in place, Moore said this is a critical time for at-risk children, especially for the adults in their home who may be dealing with unemployment and mental health, which can lead to increased behaviors like alcohol consumption and drug use – all of which put children in very vulnerable positions. As a social worker, Moore said she’ll never stop fighting for her community, regardless of the potential risks she is faced with when interacting with clients.
How has the Department of Social Services in Madera County been impacted by COVID-19?
Well, for the most part, as social workers, we are all on the front lines and we’ve just been doing our very best to meet the needs of the community in Madera County. Most of our social workers have been present in order to continue to do the work that we have to do regarding child abuse investigations and neglect. We are still trying to make every effort to have our face-to-face contact, but we are also very sensitive to social distancing and using creative ways to meet children via televideo. We recognize this is a scary time for a lot of people, especially for foster youth who are dealing with a loss in routine.
We are also working to support our student interns from the Fresno State Department of Social Work, who we’ve had the pleasure of working with. We are doing all we can to help them complete their hours and just celebrate them while they’re here.
A lot of focus of front line workers have been on those in the healthcare industry, but social services also plays a large role. Can you talk more about social workers braving the front lines?
Yes, we are essentially first responders and in some cases, we are there before the law enforcement is. When we receive a case that has an immediate or imminent risk, we respond with a two-hour time frame and this is face-to-face. Luckily, we are equipped with proper protective equipment and we do ask our clients if there is any indication of illness or fever in the home, in which case, we’ll request they meet us outside of the home environment. I think that social workers have not necessarily been on the front of people’s minds when they think about essential workers.
In addition to child welfare, your team oversees adult protective services, as well. Can you talk more about that?
Adult protective services is a really, really vulnerable population. At the beginning of all of this, they were the highest and most medically vulnerable population because they are often times isolated in their homes. We also have those with medical needs who may not be getting their needs met at this time. Our social workers are doing everything they can to help our elders and dependent adult population and respond to their needs in the same way that we would in child welfare cases.
In your role, how do you stay positive and hopeful in these times?
I remind myself that this is what I signed up for. Social workers are here to help. This is what I have to do, and this pandemic really brought to light why I got into this field. I have my own family and my children, who I had to have a talk with about this. But they understand this is what I signed up for. This is part of the job. I have a passion for social work and I have a passion for helping people – and that is what keeps me going.
What do you enjoy about being a social worker?
I enjoy being a part of community wellness and being part of facilitating holistic health for people. Within child welfare, if I can ultimately help heal a dysfunction and facilitate small successes within a family so that they can operate in some function, then that’s my reward.
How has your education at Fresno State prepared you for moments like this?
It prepared me in a sense that I am now able to give back in terms of my career. When I was a student at Fresno State and decided that social work was what I wanted to do, I didn’t realize how connected to this University I would still be 15 years later. I actually taught part-time in the Social Work Department, so I have a great relationship with Fresno State.
How can the public support front line workers like yourself?
As social workers, we are all doing our very best to meet the needs of the community in Madera County. Because of COVID-19 and shelter-in-place recommendations, there has been an influx of domestic violence cases and children who are in those environments experiencing it. We want the public to know that if they see something or suspect something is wrong, that we are still here. Child welfare is still here to help, but we need your eyes and ears.
Owner, Hands On Physical Therapy
M.S., Physical Therapy (2007)
While some healthcare providers are leading from the front lines, others are leading from a distance with compassion and empathy. Physical Therapy alumnus, Dr. Robby Pauline, is doing just that. As the owner of Hands On Physical Therapy in north Fresno, he and his wife Katie, have made it their mission to not only help their community, but Pauline’s alma mater as well.
Last week, they generously purchased dinner for current students in the Department of Physical Therapy program. In keeping with social distancing rules, Pauline and his team, held a “drive through” giveaway for students to pick up their free meals.
“I am grateful for the affordable education I received in 2007 and I recognize that for the students now their cost is much higher. A little bit of love and something small like a meal or a safe place to do an internship or work as a co-op student is so minimal. My family has benefited greatly from the P.T. program at Fresno State and I hope to always show my gratitude by being involved in whatever way I can.”
Although Pauline’s physical therapy practice is still operating with reduced hours and reduced patients due to COVID-19, he still believes in serving and compensating his 13 employees – 75% of which are Fresno State graduates.
“I feel so blessed that I was able to be educated in my own hometown which allows me to be a therapist to my friends and neighbors. This is why I give back.”
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