Job and Family Services' Joy Bivens Leads with Empathy

Katy Smith
Joy Bivens, Director, Franklin County Job and Family Services

The lobby hubbub at Franklin County Job and Family Services’ Northland Opportunity Center washes over a couple who stands, hesitant about which desk to approach, on a Monday morning in July. The man has recently lost his job, and he and his female partner, her face drawn and tense, need help to avoid eviction. Dozens of other county residents wait in orderly rows of chairs: mothers and their toddlers; a set of women, sisters maybe, with dirty faces; seniors with walkers or canes; and people wearing dreadlocks, hijabs and Buckeyes T-shirts. A diminutive woman with a long, dark ponytail comes through the front door with a baby in a stroller and pauses, looking around, until Joy Bivens approaches her. “Spanish,” the woman says quietly. “This lady needs a translator please,” Bivens calls out to a man at one of the desks. Turning to the couple, after a brief conversation she ushers them upstairs to the appropriate queue. They look grateful, even surprised, at the warm welcome.

She hasn’t been a caseworker for years, but the director of Franklin County Job and Family Services still has it. She rubs elbows with the region’s leaders these days, but she can solve customer issues with the best of them. In a profession constantly facing people abandoned by a society that too often blames them for their ills, workers who sometimes can do little to ease clients’ pain tire and leave for better jobs. Not Joy Bivens. She couldn’t be more at home than in a place where she has the continual chance to help people.

“We should deliver better customer service than a 5-star hotel,” she says later. “People aren’t coming here because they want to. They’re coming here because they’re in crisis.”

Continue reading Katy Smith's interview with Joy Bivens at Columbus CEO.