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“The clients are much better educated now,” said Braxton. “They’re aware of policies and procedures. It makes for a better relationship as far as providing services. And the methods by which we help clients are better. We’re equipping them to help themselves better than we did in the past. The department’s mission has always been the same: helping the underprivileged population, children and families. What’s changed is how we administer those programs.”
Braxton signed on with DSS in 1977, as what was then called a welfare worker in West Feliciana Parish, later transferring to East Baton Rouge.
“All of the welfare workers sat in these large rooms, as many as 10-12 of us,” Braxton described. “Our desks bumping together, talking to clients on the phone, sharing stories with each, getting suggestions and feedback. We learned from each other. We did home visits routinely. We did it without reservations or fear.”
After about a decade in the field as a caseworker and later supervisor, Braxton moved to the administrative side. She earned a Master degree in Rehabilitation Counseling in 1992, to add to her Bachelors of Science in Psychology, and continued her climb through DSS. Braxton retires as the Compliance Programs Director with DSS’ Bureau of Civil Rights, a position she’s held for the past 12 years.
Braxton estimates she’s held at least nine different jobs at DSS in the past 32 years. She’s left just once – to spend a year working the Department of Health and Hospitals.
“It was a different work culture [at DHH]”, said Braxton. “I missed my DSS family, but I made a commitment to DHH to stay for one year, then I came back.”
Braxton has big plans for retirement, as she prepares to end her three decade long service to the state.
“My husband has been retired for six years, so he’s been waiting for me to join him,” Braxton explained. “I’m going to spend time with family and visiting my 12-year-old grandson. I’m also going to spend more time working with the civic and community organizations that I’m a part of.
She’s leaving with good memories, though.
“I’ve developed so many good relationships,” said Braxton. “I got an e-mail from someone congratulating me on my retirement. She wrote ‘you don’t know me, but you greet me everyday.’ It’s those family-type relationships that I’ll miss.
“I’ve enjoyed my career here. There were times I had to give much more than 100 percent, but knowing that the end result was helping families made it worth it.”