Get to know Kim Mabe, director of social services

By Madeline Otten

From a young age, Fluvanna County Social Services Director Kim Mabe felt that helping people was what she was called to do in life.

When she was younger, she and her older brother were adopted by their grandparents. The social worker who visited her during the adoption process later became one of her first supervisors when Mabe worked at her first agency. This prompted Mabe to want to help children like her social worker had helped her.

Mabe’s grandfather was also a great role model in her life. Her grandfather was shot in the head while fighting in World War II, which resulted in permanent paralysis on his right side. When he returned home from the war, he started his own business and went to work every day. He was very involved in the community and instilled in Mabe the importance of work ethic and giving back to the community.

Following her calling, Mabe earned her degree in family and child development with a concentration in human services from Virginia Tech. She then worked for two other local social services agencies in Virginia as a social worker and as a social worker supervisor before starting as a social work supervisor in Fluvanna in 2006. Altogether, Mabe has 25 years of experience with local social services agencies in Virginia, and is currently on her 13thyear with Fluvanna County.

In 2006 Mabe and her husband moved to the area from Southwest Virginia, where most of their extended family still lives, due to her husband’s employment in Charlottesville. After living in Lake Monticello for six months, they settled into their new home in Fork Union.

Mabe has worked in and supervised service programs such as child protective services (CPS), adult protective services (APS), foster care, adoptions, VIEW (Virginia Initiative for Employment not Welfare), and child care. As a supervisor she had plenty of administrative responsibilities that prepared her for the role of director.

“During the 10 years I was a supervisor, I gained a great deal of management and human resource experience. I contributed to writing and implementing new policy, overseeing parts of our budget, and completing budget reports,” said Mabe. “I felt drawn to the administration of human services.”

Mabe worked directly under the previous Fluvanna County director of social services when she first started in 2006 and until the previous director’s retirement in 2014. Mabe then took on the role of director.

Since then, some changes have been made to improve efficiency within the office – technology being the main one, since it is vital to the workplace. However, while there has been a lot of technological progress, Mabe did not want to lose the human feel.

“When you call our office, a live person answers the phone. As caseloads have continued to grow, so has the size of our staff over the past few years as well, which has forced us to re-examine some of our processes and make organizational changes within the office,” said Mabe. “So as easy as it would be to switch to a completely automated phone system, I am not willing to give up having a live person answer our phones, although we’ve been averaging 1,000 phone calls a month.”

Mabe’s day is not a typical workday. She enjoys the variety and the need for flexibility. She attends meetings, provides training and consultation to staff, and has budgetary and human responsibilities.

“I directly supervise our six supervisors, so I meet with them regularly to stay on top of what is happening with all of the programs,” said Mabe. “I mostly try to keep up with all the changes at the state and federal level, which trickle down to us.”

The Fluvanna County Department of Social Services is a state supervised, locally administered agency. This means that while the majority of Mabe’s days are spent participating in local meetings, she must also attend state meetings, which are usually in Richmond, but can sometimes be throughout the state of Virginia.

Since the agency is responsible for administering state and federal programs, there are some challenges when it comes to adapting to the constant change. Mabe must also be creative and resourceful when carrying out new, unfunded mandates. In addition to service programs, Mabe and her team administer benefits programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Energy Assistance.

While the nature of the work they do, especially working with abused and neglected children and adults, can be difficult, Mabe finds it can also be rewarding.

“We are all here because we genuinely want to help people. It is extremely rewarding to know that you have made a difference in someone’s life for the better, that you have some part in protecting a child or adult, or have helped a family to receive benefits, and now they can get the medical care they need or have food on their table,” said Mabe.

Mabe and her team are proud of a recent project. Last year the General Assembly approved Medicaid expansion, which went into effect this year on Jan. 1. An estimated 800 additional Fluvanna residents became eligible for Medicaid under the new covered group.

“I feel that we were proactive in making the organizational changes in-house and developing processes to handle the increased workload,” Mabe said. “We also met with community stakeholders and provided a presentation to the Fluvanna Interagency Council to help inform and educate partners and the public about the new covered group. Shortly after the first of the year, almost 500 applicants had already been approved for Medicaid under Medicaid expansion. Because of our preparedness, the transition was pretty seamless.”

Mabe and her team are currently working with the schools, emergency management, public works, and other county agencies to have an emergency shelter drill in the county. Their agency is responsible for operating an emergency shelter in the event of a natural disaster or some major event that causes people to be displaced from their homes. The last time a shelter was operated was in March 2013, due to a snow storm. With the recent rain, flooding and snow, Mabe and her team want to be sure they are well prepared in the event that the shelter needs to open.

As for longer-term goals, their mission is to be a leader in collaboration with other community agencies. Mabe and her team head the county’s Interagency Council, so they are always trying to involve more agencies and local churches that serve the community.

“The second part of our mission statement is to serve county citizens promoting self-reliance, well-being and the best possible quality of life,” said Mabe. “So our ultimate goal is to reduce the number of citizens that need the benefits and services we offer. We’re not there yet, but we will continue striving to meet that goal.”

In the end, Mabe loves that she is constantly learning and developing new skills through her career. Over the many years she has been with social services, Mabe has worked with different people and has learned something new from each of them.

“I feel very humbled and honored to serve as the county’s director of social services,” she said. “It’s been an amazing opportunity for which I am very thankful.”

In her free time, Mabe and her family are avid sports fans and can be found at sporting events, on the basketball court, tennis court, or even at home playing foosball. They also enjoy mountain biking and are involved with their church, where Mabe’s husband plays in the band.


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