Springer is "voice" for those in need

May 27, 2000|By ANDREA ROWLAND

Helping people in need isn't just her job, said Carrol Springer, the assistant director for adult, child and family services at the Washington County Department of Social Services.

It's her mission.

"I do have a spiritual belief in what I do. It's a way of life - caring for others, doing for others," Springer said. "I see myself as the voice for the people who are the users of (social) services. I am their advocate. I am their voice."

She's spearheaded the establishment of homeless shelters, family violence task forces and child sexual abuse intervention programs.

She's sought funding for programs that support fledgling families, protect children from neglect and pinpoint contributing factors to juvenile delinquency.

Springer coordinates resources with other local and state agencies to ensure gaps in the system are addressed.

"When I get my teeth into something, I'm like a bulldog. I just don't give up," said Springer, 53. "I love seeing a need and helping create a new program or develop resources to meet that need."


Fueled by her passion to make a positive difference, the Hagerstown resident has forged a 30-year career devoted to improving the quality of life for people of all ages throughout the state.

Springer started her career as juvenile probation officer in Western Pennsylvania and was a foster care worker in Frederick County, Md., before earning her master's degree in social work.

She spent 15 years as a child abuse worker in Montgomery County, Md., one year handling adult programs in Carroll County, Md., and six years supervising day care and crisis intake programs at the Frederick County Department of Social Services.

Springer accepted her current post in 1994.

"I think we're extremely lucky to have obtained her from the Frederick County Department of Social Services," said Washington County DSS Director David A. Engle.

He called Springer a "consummate professional," who leads by example and is guided by the welfare of clients.


Positive impact

Springer once feared losing touch with service users as she moved up in the ranks of her state job, she said. But she's found that her position affords her the opportunity to have a positive impact on many lives.

The assistant director oversees all service operations - from programs for pregnant woman to services for elderly adults. She handles program development and compliance issues, and helps make clinical decisions on more complex cases, she said.

Springer has been "extraordinary" at bringing people together to meet the needs of vulnerable children and adults, at least doubling the agency's community outreach efforts, Engle said.

"There's really no one agency that can solve all the problems," Springer said. "A group can do more than a single agency or person."

She helped plan the county Local Management Board, which funds and manages family-oriented programs, and coordinates efforts to help troubled families find the social services they need.

Springer pushed for programs for abused and neglected kids and at-risk families, she said.

Springer and the former director of the county Office for Children and Youth co-wrote the grant that brought the Family Support Center to Hagerstown about five years ago. The center offers to families of children under age four such free services as parenting classes and resume writing.

The center tries to overcome traditional barriers to service by providing transportation and on-site childcare, Springer said.

"It's a wonderful program," she said.


First shelter

As a member of the Homeless Task Force and the Religious Effort to Assist and Care for the Homeless board, Springer in 1996 helped establish Washington County's first cold weather shelter. She said she was inspired to participate in the effort after seeing the success of Frederick County's cold weather shelter.

Springer partnered with that county's faith community a decade ago to open the Frederick shelter in the middle of a snowstorm, she said.

She worked with Washington County Health Officer Robert Parker to organize the child fatalities review team, which looks at child death cases to pinpoint community issues that could prevent certain kinds of fatalities from occurring again.

Springer chairs the Washington County Family Violence Council - a group of citizens, service providers, legislators, prosecutors, court officers, school board members and police - which formed last July to develop a strategic plan for the county.

She also co-chairs the boards of Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused in Hagerstown and Healthy Families of Washington County, an early intervention program targeted toward first-time mothers, she said.

Springer must be a juggler to keep up with her many involvements, she said. But she wouldn't have it any other way.

"It feels so good when you help somebody out. Seeing the adversity that some people have to overcome really puts your life in perspective," Springer said.

"We have to care. That's what it's all about."

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