She had no interest in working for the government. But with her dad’s encouragement, St. Joseph’s graduate Annette Mahoney-Cross went ahead and sat for the civil service caseworker test 20 years ago, hoping to land a job with benefits.
Within a couple of months, she became a caseworker at Suffolk’s Child Protective Services (CPS). To this day, Mahoney-Cross, now the director of CPS for the county, is thankful for the push from her dad.
“I got to meet so many different kinds of families,” Mahoney-Cross said Tuesday during a presentation in SJC Long Island’s Shea Conference Room to students interested in a career with CPS. “I grew up in a very small, insular community, and then there I was going out to communities I didn’t even know existed.”
Mahoney-Cross graduated from SJC Long Island in 1998 with a degree in human relations and in psychology. She earned a master’s in psychology and a master’s in social work — the latter of which was paid for by a tuition reimbursement program at CPS.
“While your master’s is not required to work in most child welfare programs, it’s encouraged for a lot of reasons,” she said. “It professionalizes the field. It gives you some skills you would not otherwise have. And tuition reimbursement is still offered today.”
Mahoney-Cross also explained that a person interested in a job at Suffolk County’s CPS just needs a bachelor’s degree; it doesn’t have to be in psychology or social work.
“I try to handle everything I do with a little humor,” Mahoney-Cross said. “We see a lot of ugly stuff. If this is work you want to do, you have to find ways to cope. It can be immensely rewarding, and there are days you’re going to go home and you’re going to cry. It’s about finding balance in that — being able to find humor in the silly things.”