Social Services has new director

Social Services has new director
May 03
04:00 2018

Victor Isler, the new director of Forsyth County Department of Social Services, said he looks to the “small miracles” his agency does for inspiration.

Isler became director of the department last week, after nearly four years as its Family and Children Services director. Forsyth DSS has a nearly $50 million budget and about 500 employees. It provides a multitude of services including adoption and foster care, child protective services and adult care, along with Medicaid and food stamp enrollment.

Isler said that it’s the “small miracles” DSS does on a regular basis that change people’s lives that’s kept him in social work.

“It’s rejuvenating to help people,” said Isler.  “The success stories along the way keep you energized.”

The Goldsboro native came to Forsyth County to attend Winston-Salem State University in 1997, where he was originally going to major in physical therapy. He changed his major to Sociology because he wanted to go beyond just physical health and deal with underserved populations and the causes of disparities.  During his time at WSSU, he interned in all the service areas at Forsyth DSS.

Isler received a Master’s degree from Pfeiffer University in Health Care Administration and then earned a Master of Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he was a NC Child Welfare scholar and interned at Forsyth DSS Child Protective Services, who then hired him.

He would work at Old Vineyard Behavioral Health Services in Durham and Durham DSS before returning to Winston-Salem in 2014 to become Forsyth DSS’s Family and Children Services director. In that position, he oversaw 115 employees who provide child protection, in-home, foster care and adoption services. Under his tenure, in-home services from social workers for families in risk of repeat maltreatment, or where abuse and neglect happened, went from 25 families to 120 families annually.

After the previous DSS director, Debra Donahue, was fired by the DSS board earlier this year for what it said was mismanagement, Isler was among the applicants for that position. Isler felt his experience and longtime relationship with the department could help it move forward.

“Forsyth County DSS is home for me, for multiple reasons,” said Isler. “It was part of my learning experience, but also part of my professional growth”

DSS Board Chair and County Commissioner Fleming El-Amin said Isler’s qualifications caused him to be scored higher than all the other applicants. El-Amin said he’s already seen a change in the department.

“The morale has already shifted over there quite a bit,” said El-Amin. “He’s very inclusive in his decision making.”

Isler said that the leadership under Assistant County Manager Ronda Tatum, who acted as interim DSS director, has led to a smooth transition. He said processing speed for Medicaid and food stamp applications is meeting critical benchmarks. 

One upcoming challenge is the N.C. Families Accessing Services through Technology (NC FAST) Program that’ll modernize the information systems associated with child welfare services this year, which will require training and technical support to assure a smooth transition.

Isler said he has an open door policy for both residents and DSS employees. He plans to work on staff engagement and retention as well management supervision and better interaction between DSS divisions.

Isler said he also wants DSS to engage in the larger conversation on disparities in the community and to work with residents to address those issues.

Isler resides in Winston-Salem with his wife, Malika Roman Isler, their three children and godson.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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