Dating back to when her mother, a clerk and later an Executive Secretary at what is now the Administration for Children’s Services, would bring her to the office to help alphabetize paperwork and bring documents to other employees, Tania Cruz has thought of herself as an “ACS child.” Since then, the agency’s child-welfare services stuck with her.
“When it was time to go to school, I specifically chose social work because I knew that I wanted to work with children,” said Ms. Cruz, now a 40-year-old Brooklyn resident.
A Temp Who Lingered
She joined the agency as a temporary employee 19 years ago. Once a hiring freeze was lifted, in 2001, she became a permanent worker and rose to eventually become Deputy Director of the ACS’s Central Eligibility Office, where she helps oversee a division that funds the agency’s work.
She received the highest honor among eight Isaac Liberman Public Service Awards given Jan. 16 by the Hundred Year Association of New York. First Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris spoke during the annual ceremony, which was sponsored by the Department of Citywide Administrative Services and held at One Police Plaza.
Ms. Cruz was given $3,500 by THE CHIEF-LEADER, which is one of the member organizations that have existed for more than a century, for her work.
Among her accomplishments was ensuring that ACS met requirements for Federal grants, known as Title IV-E, which reimburse the city for half of the money it spends on basic needs for foster children, administrative costs, staff training and recruiting foster parents. She has played a key role in passing three high-stakes Federal audits, and trains analysts outside the agency.
Put Added Funds to Use
The percentage of children for which the agency receives reimbursements rose from 40 percent in 2005 to 60 percent last year, with the added funding allowing ACS to expand services, such as a new foster-care program known as ChildSuccessNYC.
Ms. Cruz’s goal is to persuade the Federal government to be more attuned to urban issues. “I feel that when they do legislation, it’s very generic, it applies to the 50 states, but I believe that when it comes to the inner city, they really don’t understand our needs and our wants,” she said.
Because the public faces of the agency’s 6,600 employees are those in the field, Ms. Cruz said, she never expected her behind-the-scenes efforts to win her an award.
“I have no children, so I actually feel like all the children in ACS are my children,” she said. “I get very emotional when I talk about them, I get very emotional every time I’m working on a case.”
Other award winners included Mohammad Akram, a Traffic Supervisor with the NYPD, who was given $1,000 by Hagedorn & Company. As a nine-year veteran working out of Queens, he tows cars that block traffic. Even while off-duty, he walks through neighborhoods to document missing or broken traffic signs and has filed 500 “traffic-intelligence reports” with the Department of Transportation. Mr. Akram also is a member of his Community Education Council and the NYPD Auxiliary Police, and helps with the City University of New York’s citizenship campaign.
Joyce Rivers, a Deputy Human Resources Training Manager and Career Counselor with the Department of Homeless Services, was also honored for her work with several programs, including helping DHS employees locate scholarships and certification opportunities. She volunteers with social-service organizations serving Harlem and won $1,000 from John Gallin & Son, Inc.
The other honorees were Richard Chase, an Auto Mechanic in the NYPD, and Antoinette Vereen, a Principal Administrative Associate in the Department of Probation, who won $2,500 from James Thompson & Company and General Hardware, respectively. Also receiving awards were Gregoire Blain, a Fleet Collisions Coordinator in DCAS; Sandra Butler, an Emergency Medical Technician in the FDNY; and Rena Mussington, a Principal Administrative Associate in the DOP, who each won $1,000 from Collegiate Church Corporation, Alexander Wolf & Son and Henry W.T. Mali & Company.
Dozen Scholarships, Too
The Hundred Year Association and award sponsors also gave out $22,500 in college scholarships to 12 children, many of whom attend schools in New York.
Those winners of the E. Virgil Conway awards were Victoria Ng, Bryant Ly, Christine Phelan, Lindsay James Soto, Eva Chen, Anika Rastgir, Tiara Austin, Anthea Chan, Mustafa Gadelrab, Alexis Gray, Melissa K. Liriano and Lesley Ann Santos.
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