Championship Contender to Case Manager to SAAG to DFCS County Director

 By Betsy Imes and Michelle Barclay

Bryant RogowskiAs a professional wrestler, sometimes there is no one else to turn to and you have to go out alone to take on your opponent.Serving in the challenging child welfare system for over 20 years, Bryant Rogowski speaks from personal experience that a similar skill is also needed for caseworkers.Rogowski currently serves as Director of Franklin and Hart Counties Division of Family and Children Services (“DFCS”).His vision for child welfare may not be the most popular, he admits, but he views foster care as a last resort – following DFCS priorities of preserving families and relative placements to minimize the trauma of removal for children. “Every case deserves a fresh set of eyes” because every family dynamic is unique.The safety and well-being of the children are paramount, but whenever possible keeping the family together is the best solution for our children and their families.   

As a championship wrestler in high school and college, Rogowski’s first job was with the Atlanta-based World Championship Wrestling organization in 1993.His interest in wrestling was influenced by his father’s career. The elder Rogowski wrestled professionally for over 20 years as Ole Anderson of the famed Four Horsemen. Ironically, the Rogowski children were not allowed by their parents to watch the matches because their father’s character was the “bad guy who was stabbed, hit with canes and clubs, and shot at.As a wrestling family, we moved a lot and were also kind of reclusive and that was on purpose.” His time as a pro wrestler was fun, says Rogowski, but he opted out after a couple of years.It was during his experience in wrestling that he began working with at risk youth in a program started by a retired pro wrestler. 

Entering child welfare professionally in Habersham County, Rogowski was mentored by a caseworker with over 35 years’ experience who “showed him the ropes before she retired.” During that time veteran caseworkers were common, but today the turnover at DFCS is unfortunately high. In 2000, he took a job at Banks County DFCS as a supervisor.He describes this first year as a “trial by fire,” forcing him to figure out how to make things work well.For six years he served in Banks Countydeveloping collaborative relationships in the community with law enforcement, the school system and courts. “I had some committed folks who comprised one of the best DFCS staffs in the state back in those days.”Several of those staff members became supervisors and county directors themselves.   

Rogowski was very involved in the court process in Banks County and decided to attend law school at night while working at DFCS.In 2011, he accepted a position as the Special Assistant to the Attorney General (“SAAG”) representing DFCS in Stephens, Rabun and Habersham counties.Many of the responsibilities of a SAAG were enjoyable, but Rogowski says he missed the camaraderie of the county DFCS staff and interacting with families.When the position of Director over Franklin and Hart counties came open in 2013, “they let me come back.”Although the work can be stressful, “during those busy days you get to see people pulling together the most. These are probably some of the times I am most energized.” 

Reminding his staff to focus on the best solutions for each family, especially when it may not be the “Disney” ending, results in more realistic requirements for every case and better outcomes overall.For example, “a relative’s household may not meet 100% of the DFCS home inspection requirements because the Windex is under the kitchen sink” but the children are safe and less traumatized because they are with family.Doing real work with the families is what is needed most, he says.Rogowski recalls one case in which the mother was extremely difficult but the staff diligently helped her work her case plan.“She finally did what she needed to do to get the kids back. The following year, she came into the DFCS office to thank us and report she was still doing well.  It is cases like this one you’ve got to hold onto.” 



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