Social Services director announces retirement
CENTREVILLE — Since 2008, Cathy Dougherty has served as the director of Queen Anne’s County Department of Social Services. Doughterty recently announced her retirement from state service effective March 31, 2016. Susan Coppage, current assistant to the director, will serve as interim director.
Dougherty, who resides on Kent Island, has been a social worker for 39 years. Through the course of her work, Dougherty has touched the lives of many children in the state of Maryland. The staff at the Queen Anne’s Social Services said they will miss Dougherty greatly, but wish her all the best in this next stage of her life. Dougherty, who has been working with Coppage to ease the transi- tion, said she feels comfortable that all will be fine in the department when she is retired and she is confident that the department will continue to run smoothly in her absence.
A native of Harford County, Dougherty graduated from Salisbury University in 1977 with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. Dougherty began her career in social work in Cambridge, working under a federal Juvenile Justice grant to help prevent juvenile delinquency. After receiving her Master’s in Social Work she returned to Harford County Department of Social Services as a child protective services social worker doing investigations and providing continuing child protective services. In 1989, she transferred to Baltimore County DSS where she continued as a CPS Social Worker in a specialized sexual abuse unit that eventually became the Baltimore County Child Advocacy Center.
Dougherty served in a su- pervisory capacity for Baltimore County DSS and assisted in the initial set up of the Child Advocacy Center in Harford County. Dougherty first came to Queen Anne’s County in 1999 as a Supervisor of Child and Adult Protection Services and Adult Service programs with QACDSS. She continued in that capacity until 2003 when she was promoted to assistant director for services, remaining in that position until 2008 when she served as acting director and eventually was promoted to director in 2009.
For Dougherty, she said her most rewarding experiences were some of her original child protective assignments.
“These are situations you’ve never dreamed of, cases of child rape and murder, more like the pages of a book than real life,” said Dougherty. “Many times I felt more like a detective than a social worker.”
Being able to work closely with law enforcement and helping make the best possible outcome for the child is what continued to drive me, Dougherty said.
Although challenging at times, it was important to be able to recognize the difference between good and evil and make that judgement call, she added. There are unfortunately some very evil people out there, said Dougherty, and you don’t ever want to see the two mixed up.
Social work is driven in part by parameters set forth by the court, but there is effort that goes into rehabbing the parents and reuniting them with their children when it is possible to do so while still maintaining the safety of the child, said Dougherty, adding, “Sometimes this is a very difficult decision to make.”
The Queen Anne’s County Department of Social Services also offers public assistance to adults and elders suffering abuse or who have fallen on hard times, said Dougherty.
“We live now in a crisisoriented world,” she said.
As for trends that Dougherty has noticed during her time serving Queen Anne’s County, she noted the increase in babies born to mothers in the county that are born with drug exposure. The numbers are roughly 10 times now, what they were five years ago. Dougherty said she holds responsible the heroin epidemic. Heroin is a drug that knows no boundaries, she said. “We see individuals of every race and economic standing being affected by this life altering drug.”
Dougherty questioned why society now has a greater influence over individuals than their family.
Dougherty, who has been actively involved with the Queen Anne’s County Child Abuse Response and Evaluation Center as a social worker, said she plans to remain involved and support the organization with fundraising efforts. CARE is a multi-disciplinary child advocacy organization that assists children in need in crisis situations. The program is grant funded and relies on volunteers and fundraising.
Dougherty said a quarter auction to benefit the Child Advocacy Center is planned for Friday, April 29, at 6:30 p.m. at the Ruthsburg Community Center. Food, including crab cake sliders, wine and beer will be available for sale. Vendors include Thirtyone, Perfectly Posh, LulaRoe and Carrie Sue Cupcakery among others. For more details, contact 410-758-2533.
Director of Queen Anne’s County Department of Social Services, Cathy Dougherty announces her retirement.