Congratulations to Cheri Wood and Pamela Podwel for recently winning the 2021 North Carolina Child Support Team of the Year Award. This award recognizes teams for their dedication to serving families, providing outstanding customer service, and surpassing their goals set forth by the state. Last year presented many unique challenges and required this dynamic Child Support duo to adapt to a mid-pandemic work landscape.
Pre-pandemic, Pamela Podwel, Child Support Office Supervisor, and Cheri Wood, Child Support Program Manager kept busy working cases, filling in for absent caseworkers, attending court hearings, and guaranteeing quality customer services to the families and children who they served. Their workflow drastically changed on March 16th, 2020- the day the courthouse and courts closed to the public.
Their roles stayed the same, but the workday suddenly looked very different. “When the courts closed, our Chief Judge, in order to avoid the spread of COVID-19 in jail, requested that we reduce the inmate population by releasing the inmates who were being held for child support violations,” Cheri remembers. She continues, “We had to work quickly to accommodate the request and also had to continue hundreds of previously scheduled court cases to future court dates, notifying all parties of their new court date, and using new systems of communications to do so.”
Cheri and Pam also shared the responsibility of maintaining office cleanliness by arriving early and staying late to ensure all equipment was properly sanitized for staff. They worked within public health guidelines when the court opened back up to the public, making sure that all courtrooms were properly sanitized and appropriately set up for social distancing.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cheri and Pam worked together to create new ways to meet their state-mandated goals and ended up surpassing all goals and setting the gold standard for service delivery during the pandemic. They were so successful; in fact, that they trained staff in other counties in their pandemic response systems so other counties could experience similar successes.
When asked what motivated them to achieve these amazing results during such a trying time both locally and globally, both said, “The children we serve deserve our best under any and all circumstances.”
Thank you, Pam and Cheri, for all of your professionalism, diligence, and flexibility. Your commitment to serving our community and keeping your coworkers and clients safe is a true inspiration.