Published 12:00 am Friday, February 3, 2012

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — After running the county’s child protective services, foster care and adoption programs for 15 years, Tom Brewer says he will retire at the end of this month.
Brewer is the children’s services program administrator for Rowan County Department of Social Services.
“Mr. B,” as he is called by his staff, has a total of 39 years working for social service programs in North Carolina, and 16 of those years have been in Rowan County. His retirement date is Feb. 29.
“I just think it’s time,” Brewer said. “I felt it’s time to do a few more things differently.”
Brewer, who lives in Charlotte, said he plans to do volunteer work, get involved in some community theater productions and participate in singing projects.
The most rewarding thing about working in Rowan County, he said, has been collaborating with other local agencies and the community as a whole to help children.
“This community has embraced, I think, the idea that it takes all of us to ensure that children are receiving the types of care that they should receive,” Brewer said. “From the county commissioners down through all of the different agencies, we have joined together to put in a joint effort in trying to make difference.”
Sandra Wilkes, who has been serving as interim director after her own retirement as director late last year, said the department has been fortunate to have Brewer on its staff.
“Mr. Brewer’s personal goal has been doing as much as he could do every day to ensure that children in the care of this department are in safe situations,” Wilkes said. “He passed that expectation on to every member of his staff, impressing upon them that what they do does matter.”
Wilkes said Rowan County has benefited from the “remarkable insight” into social services issues that Brewer gained from his long career in the field.
“One of his most recent accomplishments is the development of the Fatherhood Initiative, a program that will help absent fathers become more involved in the lives of their children,” Wilkes said.
Brewer, an Asheville native, earned his undergraduate degree from North Carolina A&T University. He received a master’s degree in social work from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago.
Brewer began his career as a social worker in Guilford County in 1972. Three years later, he joined the State Division of Social Services as a staff trainer and children’s program consultant, a position he held for 17 years.
He worked as a Child Protective Services investigator for the Davidson County Department of Social Services for three years before coming to the Rowan County Department of Social Services as a case management supervisor in 1996.
Brewer was promoted to the position of Program Administrator to manage child protective services, foster care, and adoption services and has served in that position since 1997. He also represents the department on numerous local and state committees and advisory boards.
He said the hardest part of his current job has been dealing with the way some adults treat children, especially when the loss of a child is involved.
“I still haven’t been able to figure out some of the harsh things that happen to children, and what drives people to the point of doing those things,” Brewer said.
The best parts, he said, have been helping children and families and training others to do the same. Brewer said he enjoys working with staff members, helping them take on challenges and watching them grow.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
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