The Liberty/Long Department of Family and Children Services has seen changes in recent years, like highs from moving into a state-of-the-art facility and lows associated with state budget cuts.
Another change for the agency is abreast as a new director, Shawn Brown, stepped into the role Feb. 16.
Prior to taking the role, Brown served as the permanency, or foster care, administrator for the Chatham County DFCS office since June 2012.
“Me getting this job is kind of like me coming home,” Brown said. The Fort Wayne, Ind., native came to Fort Stewart on Army assignment in 1994, and he chose to stay in the area after his time in service ended in 1998.
Brown has worked with area families through roles with Family Centered Services, an in-home therapy provider, and Darsey, Black and Associates clinical- and mental-health services.
“I became involved in this line of work when I was in the Army. I re-enlisted at one point, and I was given a college option … I was kind-of interested in ministry-type work, and I was encouraged by a mentor who told me that counseling was going to be a critical need in the future …,” he said. “The next thing I knew, I had found my passion in helping other people.”
He also has served more than 100 times as a subject-matter expert in family-related juvenile- and superior-court cases, he said.
Brown replaces Debbie Bennett, who retired in December according to Richard “Rick” Chamberlin Jr., who served as the interim between the two.
Because the Georgia Department of Human Resources does not authorize its employees to speak on agency or policy matters, Brown only was able to comment on his own background and his desire to serve.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, however, reported in April 2012 that the Division of Family and Children Services lost 28 percent of its state funding for child welfare services over five years and was bracing for federal losses.
Bennett alluded to the hardship in a December 2011 presentation to the Rotary Club of Hinesville, where she said that state law forced employees to transition from working as case managers to an assembly-line fashion.
“We go into this business because they want to help people and have that person-to-person contact — they are missing that,” the former director told the club. “I do think we’re going to miss that holistic look at the person.”
Brown said Tuesday that his office is in the process of consolidating data to identify the number and types of cases the office handled in 2012. He also said he’s exploring the dynamics of a military community and trying to glean a better understanding of how to address issues military-connected families face.
But he vowed to bring innovation and creative partnerships to the office, which has a staff of about 40 people he calls “unsung heroes.”
“We are doing our best to — even in lean times, with budget cuts — to be as innovative and creative as we possibly can, and that’s what they can expect of me as a leader — to find whatever means possible that we can partner with people and leaders throughout the community to ultimately do what’s best for each child and each family,” he said.