Holder has been the Tennessee Valley Regional administrator for 12 years. Her region includes Bledsoe, Bradley, Franklin, Grundy, Hamilton, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Polk, Rhea and Sequatchie counties.
“I am honored to serve as the RA of Tennessee Valley and honored to have received this award from the TFACA. I accepted it in honor of my staff and my resource parents who are truly the ones who deserve the honor,” Holder said.
Administrators are nominated by foster parent associations across the state.
This is the administrator’s second year to receive the award. She first received the award in 2009.
“I oversee all the programs in the Tennessee Valley. ... Those programs are Child Protective Services, foster care, adoption, juvenile justice and noncustodial services,” Holder said.
Holder said although she is in an administrative role, she never wants to forget what it is like to be “on the front lines” working directly with the children and there families.
“I don’t want to just be an administrator, and not feel the stress and anxiety that they feel,” Holder said. “I want to see it for myself, so that I can help them.”
She enjoys the opportunities her job gives her to help others, especially when children are given a permanent home.
“Our children are just precious,” Holder said.
Holder said she has enjoyed seeing her staff grow and what they have been able to accomplish.
Last year, the Tennessee Valley Region had more students graduate from high school or get their GED then any other region in the state, according to Holder.
“Yes, they do have baggage, and yes, they have been through trauma, but these kids have a lot to offer,” Holder said.
Flexibility is a major part of her job. With 380 staff members spread across 11 counties, Holder always has a lot going on.
“Flexibility is a requirement for anyone who works in our department,” Holder said.
Many times her day does not go how she planned it when she came to work. Emergencies often come up.
“No day is ever the same. Its always different,” Holder said. “Its always a challenge, but it’s a worth while challenge.”
Being sensitive and avoiding discriminating are also key traits, Holder said
The hours she works also fluctuates.
The job has many challenges.
One challenge is having the positive aspects of DCS’s work seen by the community. Too many times only the negative things that happen are known about, Holder said.
Another challenge is a need for foster parents.
“Really, they are our heroes,” Holder said. “Because, they have our children 24/7 and they are taking care of them 24/7. Without them, these kids would really have a hard time.”
Holder said the region especially needs individuals or couples willing to parent sibling groups or teenagers. Recent changes to the foster care system have allowed for students who are pursuing higher education or finishing high school to participate in extented foster care until they are 21.
While Holder hasn’t always been able to see how her work has made a difference, there are moments when it is evident. Holder said she received a call from a 40-year-old woman last week thanking her for the help Holder had given her when she was a teenager.
“She said, ‘I would have been in jail or on drugs if it wasn’t for you,’” Holder said. “It’s just so amazing sometimes those things come back and say, ‘Yes, you are making a difference.’”
Holder has worked with DCS for 32 years.
“I’ve done everything, except juvenile justice, from the frontline up,” Holder said.
Holder worked in a supervisor role in juvenile justice.
“I strongly believe that my work with DCS is a mission and not a job. Helping children and families and assisting my staff in growing professionally are the reasons that I enjoy this job,” Holder said.
Before working with DCS, Holder worked as a social worker, then took time off to stay home with her children. Holder’s first job with DCS was in Child Protective Services.
Holder became interested in being a social worker while she was in college.
“Of course, you go into social work and you think you’re going to save the world,” Holder said. “It doesn’t turn out that way, but you can make a small impact on a few people and hopefully in the next generation you will see even more.”
She said it takes the community coming together to make a real difference in the lives of these children.
“DCS can’t do it alone,” Holder said.
Holder said DCS is only one piece of the puzzle.
Holder and her husband moved to Cleveland 34 years ago, when he was transferred here for work. Holder and her husband have two adopted children and five grandchildren.