Dixie Zúñiga, Angelica Del Castillo and Victoria Serrano have one thing in common - their commitment to improving the lives of children in San Joaquin County.
Zúñiga, Del Castillo and Serrano are three of the six people recognized by the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) and the San Joaquin Children’s Services Coordinating Commission at the 19th annual Child Abuse Prevention Symposium on April 10 at the Stockton Hilton.
They are the recipients of this year’s Child Abuse Prevention and Intervention Awards. The awards reflect the dedication of the individuals and organizations in the San Joaquin County community committed to improving the lives of children and their work to prevent child abuse and aid victims.
Zúñiga and Del Castillo, who are both social workers in the Child Protective Services Dependency Court Unit, were recognized in the Service Employee of the Year category.
The social workers provide case management services mandated by the court to at-risk children and their parents with a multitude of personal issues that impact their ability to adequately parent.
Zúñiga and Del Castillo primarily provide case management services to Spanish-speaking clients and they constantly communicate with community service providers, such as clinicians, translators, attorneys, program instructors, teachers, medical staff, probation officers, social workers, foster parents, and extended family members.
The hard-working and effective team’s work focus to reunify parents with their children.
Zúñiga and del Castillo take a hands-on approach with Spanish-speaking clients that shows they genuinely know the disadvantages a person might have while trying to understand the complexity of a court hearing.
Serrano was selected for the Volunteer of the Year category for her advocacy, strong leadership, and commitment to helping families.
She participated for two years in the Child Abuse Prevention Council’s Parent Café at South/West Park Elementary School in Tracy, where she used different tools and techniques to promote strong and healthy families.
Serrano, who was elected a parent mentor, successfully conducted continuation sessions with her fellow parents.
Throughout her group facilitation, she developed strong communication skills and helped other mothers overcome difficult situations.
Serrano’s passion and dedication have been inspired by her own daughter, who has autism and has been actively involved in the “Poder de Voces Especiales” through Valley Mountain Regional Center, which reaches into the community to help families who have children with special needs.
Detective Yanell Ysais, a six-year veteran of the Stockton Police Department who became a detective as a domestic violence investigator in the family crimes unit before moving to the child abuse and sexual assault investigations unit, was recognized in the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year category.
One of Ysais’ first major cases involved a local pastor accused of sexually abusing the daughter of a parishioner. The case required investigators to work quickly and thoroughly without breaching confidentiality.
She and her partner obtained a full confession and the suspect pled to 16 years in state prison.
Ysais was a seasoned investigator by the time she was on what became the high-profile case of Rodney Flucas, who was accused of long-term sexual abuse of his children and other victims that spanned years in multiple states.
Ysais developed a bond and trust with the victims that brought the extent of the abuse to light. Flucas was prosecuted in federal court and sentenced to life in prison.
In the Appreciation for Years of Service category, Dale Fritchen, who recently retired from San Joaquin County Human Services Agency, where he worked for 35 years to protecting children received the recognition.
Over the years, he worked closely with law enforcement, hospitals, other social workers, elected officials, and anyone else who wanted to learn more about the child-welfare system.
Fritchen has served on various committees throughout his career, and he states he will continue to volunteer and advocate for at-risk children in his retirement.
This year Distinguished Honoree award went to Dave Erb for his 34-year career working in the child welfare system dedicated to keeping children safe and providing opportunities for children to thrive.
During his career, Erb taught at the University of the Pacific to educate others about child abuse and neglect, served on the board of directors for both the Women’s Center of San Joaquin County and Community Partnership for Families of San Joaquin, served on the State Child Death Review Council, and acted as a Department of Justice grievance review officer.
The Symposium brings together more than 300 educators, social workers, law enforcement officers, nurses, advocates, therapists, and other professionals working to prevent child abuse and help its victims.,
The symposium, which is part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, allows professionals to share strategies that will aid in their efforts throughout the year.