budget: Jennifer Parker

Jennifer Parker 

‘While I am excited for a new opportunity to be closer to home and my family, there is a big part of me saddened to leave the community I have called home for the last 10 years’

Jennifer “Jen” Parker, for more than three years the director of Social Services in Rappahannock County, having worked in the office for more than 10 years, yesterday announced her resignation.

“She announced it at the Rappahannock Roundtable Zoom call I was on,” said Randy Rieland, whose articles and series for Foothills Forum appear often in this newspaper. “She's going to work in Clarke County, which is apparently much closer to her home.”

Parker for more than 10 years has worked for Rappahannock DSS, first as a comprehensive services coordinator and family services specialist until such time she became director of the office in October 2017.

Among her duties, she planned, organized and directed social services programs, developed the department’s budget, researched and developed agency resources that included grants, and collaborated with community partners.

“I was fortunate to have a good working relationship with Jennifer Parker and I think during our time working together we improved coordination between DSS and county government,” Rappahannock County Administrator Garrey W. Curry said Thursday morning.

“While I am sorry to see her move on, I recognize that family is one of the most important factors for each of us in selecting our workplace, and to that extent, I am glad that Jennifer will have a much shorter commute to her new office that should afford the opportunity for a better work-life balance,” Curry said.

In an email to the Rappahannock News this morning, Parker said: “As much of the community already knows, I will be leaving my position as Director of Social Services on January 8, 2021. While I am excited for a new opportunity to be closer to home and my family, there is a big part of me saddened to leave the community I have called home for the last 10 years.

“It does truly take a village,” Parker continued. “To improve communities and make a community where people are safe, healthy, and cared for takes an immense amount of work. Rappahannock may be a small, rural county, but its heart and people are strong and passionate. Over the past three years, I have seen a great effort to bring together fragmented systems, programs, and services to improve the well-being of all the citizens in Rappahannock. 

“Everyone is working together and feverishly toward better outcomes and building a better, healthier, and sustainable community. There is an African proverb that best sums the need for strong community partnerships, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

“Rappahannock has brought together partners and has built strong partnerships, built a strong framework, and has created a strong culture of helping. For this, I will forever be grateful to have been part of this growth, creativity, and passion of service to the community,” she said.

“I am so thankful for all those who helped with growing our foster home base, for those who showed up with PPE needs during COVID, who met the needs of our foster care children at various stages and those partners who work tirelessly to bring services to our community. If I could create a name list I am certain the newspaper would require me to purchase a section as there are so many. 

“I will remember each person who has touched my life, my work, and most of all my heart through our work together. This is truly a bittersweet departure. However, knowing the strong leadership at the County helm and the dedicated community partners, Rappahannock will grow and prosper on. I will be back to see you all sometime soon. Happy holidays and my warmest wishes for many prosperous years to come.”

For almost 16 years, starting in August 1995, Parker was a human services worker for the Culpeper County Department of Human Services, where she was responsible for assisting clients in completing applications for benefit programs for adults, children and families.

Working for DSS in Rappahannock County, arguably, has been equally challenging and rewarding for Parker.

In August, this newspaper reported that the DSS office was renewing its efforts that began two years earlier to recruit new foster care families, having struggled for some time to find temporary homes for children needing foster care. 

Instead, it has had to rely more on placing at-risk kids in group homes or therapeutic facilities outside the county, some in locations as far away as Richmond and Roanoke. The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t helped matters.

Parker in August expressed concern about “more parents feeling financial stress with the loss of federal unemployment payments” on top of normal financial needs. 

“They still have kids at home much of the week. It can reach the point where it all boils over,” she said.

On her LinkedIn page, Parker writes: “As a child I wanted to be a helper of some sort. When I ‘grew up’ I thought I was destined to help in nursing. My life took a swerve and my path to helping changed after childbirth after spending a month in the NICU. It was there I discovered a new passion for helping for children and families.

“The new path has taken me through over 26 years of local department of social services work in Virginia. I have worked in all program areas, benefits, child protective services, foster care and now as a local agency director,” she continues. “My passion and dedication to community will always be at the center of what I do. The question I will always have is how to improve on it.”

There is no immediate word on Parker’s successor.

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