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He's on 'frontline' of adult services

January 13, 2009|By JANET HEIM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- John Kenney's job might involve a lot of paperwork, but he's all about the people who are served.

That commitment was recognized in August at an annual Adult Protective Services convention in Chicago when Kenney received the Spirit of NAPSA (National Adult Protective Services Association) Award.

The award is given to a "frontline APS staff person who has contributed to the growth and development of the APS program in their community, as well as to the field of abuse intervention," according to a NAPSA newsletter.

As program manager for Adult Services for the Department of Social Services, Kenney and his staff of four APS employees, two social services supervisors and one in-home aide supervisor work to protect the quality of life for more than 90 clients.

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Their adult clients have a range of needs, including bathing and dressing, getting to appointments, keeping track of bills, working on relationships with others, and avoiding alcohol and drugs.

"John provides exceptional leadership for the Adult Services Unit and still works hard to develop innovative plans to secure and provide services to vulnerable adults. He's known for getting employees to be self-directed to provide appropriate services," reads a portion of his nomination for the award.

Kenney's career path came in a roundabout way. Initially, the Frostburg, Md., native planned to become a teacher.

After graduating from the University of Maryland College Park, he returned to Frostburg as a secondary English teacher, only to discover he didn't like teaching.

Realizing a career change was in order, Kenney checked job listings with the State of Maryland. He found one for a social services assistant that interested him, in part because his parents had been foster parents in Allegany County in Western Maryland.

His instincts were right. Kenney was hired by the Department of Social Services in 1972 and has been there ever since. He earned a master's degree in social work from West Virginia University in 1978, just as the state passed a law on adult protective services.

"The director said 'It's your program,' so then I had to get everything started," Kenney said.

That meant developing agreements with law enforcement and local agencies. Kenney got involved with the Washington County Commission on Aging, and has been a longtime member and past president. He also served on the Task Force on Homelessness for Washington County, is chairman of the Social Work Caucus and has been a St. Ann Roman Catholic Church parishioner for 28 years.

A senior-care program Kenney developed went statewide.

"I'm real proud of that. They even liked the model we used," Kenney said.

One thing hasn't changed over the years - having a limited number of resources with a growing population with increasing needs.

"It makes the job frustrating at times. We have had hard times before. This one is particularly hard," Kenney said of the current economic conditions.

Kenney has lived in Hagerstown since 1972. He married Judy Walters in 1980, and the couple has two grown children and six grandchildren.

"I felt somewhat humbled by the experience," Kenney said of receiving the Spirit of NAPSA Award.

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