Case management is a very hard job in itself……. add the stress of a disgruntled parent or an out of control teenager and it seems unbearable at times. However, the Devereux team wanted to shine the light on my case manager Michelle O’Connor, who continues to excel at her job through all of this. She has a very complex case load.  One of her kids continues to be Baker Acted almost on a weekly basis. Michelle took the extra time to make an effort to speak with the child daily to encourage her to stay positive and when the child felt the need to vent. After that exchange occurred the child went almost two weeks with no Baker Acts. Ms. O’Connor had another teen that was constantly running away, using drugs, and was feared to be involved with sex trafficking.  Ms. O’Connor worked hard at building a rapport with the child. The child was eventually located and taken to DJJ. Upon her release she was placed in a drug program. The child has done really well and has changed her life around since being in the program. Although the child is placed in another county, Ms. O’Connor takes the time to spend at least one day out of the month taking the child out to eat, shopping, and getting her nails done. She also attended every DJJ hearing with the child to provide support.  The child sees that Ms. O’Connor genuinely cares for her and that she is not just “another case manager”. The child wants Ms. O’Connor to be proud of her and is working hard in her program. Ms. O’Connor shines due to her willingness to show that she cares while excelling in doing her job.

Devereux would like to highlight our 5 Lead Case Managers, as they have taken on many training roles with our new staff to include training assistance in writing of court reports; shadowing of field work; and guiding them on the principles of having positive engagement skills with families.  In addition to this, they helped our Management Team with staff morale and keeping a positive outlook during our recent transition. Our Leads are:

Berlendah Gadson

Sara Collins

Stephanie Balmaceda

Shuntia Hamilton

Brioni Williams


Gwen Hinkle has been employed as a Case Manager at One Hope United for approximately nine months. In March of this year she was assigned to a reopened case with six children. Unfortunately for the children, it was their third removal and CLS is pursuing TPR. The children were originally in three different placements and are now in four different placements. Gwen has gone above and beyond her normal required duties, working diligently to get the kids to parent visits, sibling visits, medical appointments, dental appointments, and therapeutic appointments. She has completed two separate unified home studies in an attempt to place all six children in one home, and is currently working on a third. She gave up her Saturday to take all six children on a special visitation outing. Despite the filing of the TPR petition, Gwen has assisted the mother by providing her with referrals for domestic violence and substance abuse treatment. Regardless of whether TPR occurs, Gwen is trying to assist the mother in the hope that she can have a brighter future. Gwen has worked many long nights, moving the children to different placements, and in her own special way, passionately and fervidly assisted the children when they initially refused to leave their home county in Highlands to a foster home in another county. Gwen has maintained her composure during highly emotional visits between the mother and the children, and the father and the children. She handles herself with grace and dignity, and uses every tool she possesses to ensure the children are not traumatized even further. This is a very difficult case, for a number of reasons, one being that the children remain bonded with their parents, and it is heart-wrenching when visits end. Even when things get hard, and harder, Gwen has given it her all. This case takes an extraordinary amount of Gwen’s time and energy, yet she still manages to work her other cases and serve her families with compassion and dedication. We truly hope Gwen remains a part of the One Hope United family for a very long time. Thank you, Gwen!

Children’s Home Society of Florida’s Greater Lakeland Office wanted to recognize more than one person in this month’s Case Manager Corner.  Instead we realize that when it comes to Adoption work, Team Work is the only way that goals are met, and lives are changed.  There is no question that we have made great gains in how our adoption unit “does business” for the 2017-2018 fiscal year!  This has become abundantly clear, as for the first time in four years, they were able to successfully meet their adoptions target of 42 children, and they accomplished this having had only one Adoption Specialist on board!  Both Elizabeth Parrish, Adoptions Supervisor, and Jennifer Dankowski, Adoption Specialist, have had a heart for Adoptions and finding children permanency and “Forever Homes” since they started with CHS.  Together, their total years of Adoption experience rival any other local adoption team.   Additionally, when considering out of circuit adoptions, in which they also were able to finalize three additional adoptions, they ensured a total of 45 children achieved permanency!

Liz and Jennifer accepted the challenge and through hard work, focus, determination, and dedication, the goal was attained!  Without question, Children’s Home Society is ecstatic that our adoption team was able to make a difference in the lives of these children, and we know that for Elizabeth Parrish and Jennifer Dankowski, that this is not only a job, but a calling.  They take pride in their work and take the safety and well-being of children very seriously.  We here at CHS continue to be honored and grateful that they are part of our team.  In the meantime, the hard work continues and we continue to DO GOOD at CHS!