TRAVERSE CITY — Irene Stuart is dedicated to her work. She once left half-way through a haircut to meet a mother and young child who showed up at her office unannounced.
Stuart is the supervisor for Child Protective Services with Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties’ Department of Human Services, and she’s known for dropping everything to help victims of abuse and neglect.
“She could not bear the thought of them sitting and waiting, and that’s just one story that she’s kind of become famous for,” said Dawn McLaughlin, DHS director in Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties.
Stuart received the 2014 National Association of Social Workers — Michigan Chapter Lisa Putnam Award for Excellence in Child Welfare for her dedication to protecting children. She’s one of two people in the state to receive the distinction and was nominated by her colleagues and peers.
“When I thought about the person that demonstrates the great social work values and ethics, a commitment to the needs of youth and their families, and a tireless passion for it, I thought about Irene,” McLaughlin said.
Stuart worked as an investigator for Child Protective Services for 12 years before becoming supervisor four years ago. She’s also involved in Grand Traverse Baby Court, Adoption Day, the Infant Mental Health Consortium and a child death review team.
“In her personal life she’s always looking out for children, and in her professional life she’s worked tirelessly to help them,” McLaughlin said.
Stuart said she considers working in child protective services to be a privilege, and she strives to promote healthy human relationships. She was humbled by the nomination and is proud to receive the award.
“It’s pretty lofty company when you look at statewide the caliber of people that they nominate,” Stuart said.