The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


July 22, 2012

26 years of helping the helpless

LEWISBURG — It’s an important job and very tough work. Case worker for a child welfare agency has been called the hardest government job there is. Large caseloads, high stress, legal and bureaucratic issues and low pay are just some reasons why the average caseworker career is two to five years, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Which all makes it all the more astonishing that Saviella Williams has done this job for 26 years. Working for Union County Children& Youth agency, Williams will retire in August after a career that is practically unheard of in this field.

“An average day …” Williams thought about the question and then burst out laughing, talking in her office at the Children & Youth offices in Lewisburg. “It’s definitely not eight hours a day!”

Williams, 73, exudes a warmth and kindness, even from behind her desk. She still has a Southern accent despite years living outside of her native South Carolina. She plans ultimately to return there; several family members, including her daughters and their families, are moving to South Carolina near Lake Murray. There is a grandson on the way in August — “Baby Ben, we call him now,” she said – and “now is a good time” to retire, Williams said, “in terms of timing and what’s happening in the family.”

Williams didn’t start out as a children’s caseworker. Her first career was as a medical laboratory technician, she said, living and working in Maryland and Hawaii, among other places, while her husband, a doctor, was in the military. They were in Minnesota, both working at the Mayo Clinic before moving to Pennsylvania for his turn at Geisinger Medical Center.

Sometime later, while raising children and going through a divorce, Williams decided she needed a change.

For more details, see Monday’s edition of The Daily Item.

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