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Employee of the Year works with children, adults in abuse

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 January 2015 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Dione Harrington, a supervisor with the Department of Social Services, was named the Orleans County Employee for the Year for 2014.

ALBION – Dione Harrington admits her job will sometimes keep her awake at night. She sees many children and senior citizens in neglect and abuse.

Harrington and a team of caseworkers at the Department of Social Services will work to improve the situations, sometimes bringing in law enforcement or other support services for parenting or drug addictions.

She has worked in DSS for 24 years, including the past 14 years as a supervisor with child protective, adult protective and domestic violence cases.

Harrington and the DSS staff consistently rank in the top 10 in New York on the performance measures mandated by the state for child protection investigations, said Nola Goodrich-Kresse, a public health educator and vice president of the Employees Assistance Program.

The EAP on Wednesday named Harrington the county “Employee of the Year.” She was presented a plaque during the Orleans County Legislature meeting.

The caseloads for Harrington and six child protective caseworkers have jumped, from about 300 child protective cases in 2001 to about 700 now.

Harrington said a surge in drug problems in the community is responsible for most of the rise in child abuse and neglect.

“The big issue is drug abuse,” she said. “It is a horrific problem in the county and all over. It can impair a parents’ ability to be a parent.”

Harrington said her co-workers and many service providers “genuinely care about kids,” trying to improve their situations and make them safe and healthy.

She will often direct services to families from Drug Court, the Genesee-Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, the Care Net Center of Greater Orleans, and other agencies.

“You cannot focus on what has happened to the child,” Harrington said she will often tell her staff. “You just focus on it not happening again.”

However, she said the cases can be troubling.

“You still bring it home with you at night,” she said.

She oversees two investigators in elder abuse. For seniors, that is typically financial exploitation, Harrington said.

She collaborates with legal and human services professionals, and she continues to earn their respect, Goodrich-Kresse said.

Harrington was named Employee of the Month last February. The EAP committee considered the honored employees from each month and then picked a top employee for the year.

Other employees recognized for going “above and beyond their duty” the past year include Wayne Krull in highway, William Culverwell in buildings and grounds, Karen Wygal in nursing home, James Halstead from the Sheriff’s Department, Tammy Vanwycke in the nursing home, Onnalee O’Connor in the Legislature’s office, and C.J. Laubacher from the Sheriff’s Department.