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Spotlight on Deb Seeger, Independent Living Professional Award Recipient

By Penny Stiles, Technical Assistance Division Manager

two women on a stage holding an award

Deb Seeger (right) accepts the Independent Living Professional Award from Department of Human Services Acting Secretary Valerie A. Arkoosh, MD, MPH (left) at the 2023 Annual Pennsylvania Permanency Conference.

Deb Seeger’s love of interacting with people and passion for helping teens led to her current position of Independent Living Coordinator at Chester County Department of Children, Youth and Families. Deb will be celebrating her 10-year anniversary this year and  attributes her longevity in the field  to multiple factors: a position that allows for a healthy work-life balance, the feeling of being valued and respected within her agency and being surrounded by “a lot of really good people,” her co-workers at the county.  Deb, in turn, expects everyone to care about the youth with whom their agency works. 

When I spoke with her in preparation for this article, Deb easily related anecdotes of teens with whom she has worked. From her stories, it is apparent that she is very involved with the youth, as she recalls their specific achievements and details of people who are important to them. One of Deb’s strengths is connecting youth receiving services to valuable resources.  Employment, driver’s licenses, housing, college acceptance, and budgeting skills are just a few examples of tangibles and services Deb has helped youth to acquire. 

She also listens to the youth and provides encouragement—beyond the basic demonstration of good listening skills. Deb carefully words her feedback, encourages the youth to “unpack” their responses, and works together with the youth to find solutions.  She recognizes that the youth do not always believe what she may be telling them, so she suggests they do their own research, often connecting them to others for “3rd party” feedback. She also recognizes that she does not have to agree with the youth’s decision; it is simply her role to help them navigate the requirements and the details. 

These are just a few of the reasons Deb was honored by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, Office of Children, Youth and Families with the Independent Living Professional Award in 2023. The individual who nominated Deb described her as creative, perpetually optimistic, and having positive energy and called her “a force to be reckoned with.”

These attributes came through during my interview with Deb, most notably in her assessment of child welfare work: “We need a sense of urgency.  Our kids need our support.”  Deb wants all of the youth she works with to have the sense that she is there for them to help them work through their problems.  She expects a partnership and celebrates both the milestones and the small steps with the youth.  And, when asked for closing comments, Deb summed it all up indicating she loves the youth (“They’re so fun!”) and the work she does keeps her young and connected.

Penny Stiles is the SWAN technical assistance division manager for the southeast region.  Previously, Penny served the same region as a SWAN regional technical assistant. Prior to coming to SWAN, she was a supervisor at a SWAN affiliate. Penny not only feels that every child deserves a family, but that every child deserves a champion as well—someone who will be there for the child no matter what—and that Deb is one of these champions.


Published: March 1, 2024

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Article Links

  1. Penny Stiles
  2. Chester County Department of Children, Youth and Families