If you took a stroll through the Arizona Department of Economic Security’s (DES) Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) recently, chances are you were met by the gentle scent of baby shea butter or the sweet sounds of a baby cooing. Those are just some of the joys Baby Kenya Barnes and her mom Da’Vonna Shannon brought to the agency over the last five months, with their participation in Governor Doug Ducey’s Infant at Work program.
The pair successfully completed the program on March 1st, and in a send-off fit for a princess, Kenya and Da’Vonna were honored with a graduation ceremony.
“I want to thank everyone for your support and for welcoming Kenya. Also, thanks for all of your hard work in putting policies and procedures in place to make this a reality at DES,” said Da’Vonna.
Leah Landrum Taylor, Assistant Director for the Office of Community Engagement and one of the driving forces behind the program at DES, presented Kenya with a graduation certificate.
“My hope is that it worked for them and they were able to see the true vision and benefit that we had in mind for this program,” Landrum said. “Also, to know that there wasn’t one complaint [about having a baby in the office] is wonderful.”
The Infant at Work program allows a mom, dad, foster parent, or legal guardian to bring his or her baby to work for the first six months of the child’s life. Babies must be at least four weeks old, and participation is capped at six months, or until the baby becomes mobile, whichever comes first. The program is available to all DES employees in non-client facing roles, pending supervisor approval.
One other DES employee is currently participating in the Infant at Work program and a number of employees have applied for participation. Being the first, Da’Vonna has become a mentor for those who come after her.
“There was no blueprint for us to follow because we were the first,” she said. “We are glad to have been the example for others.”
Dr. Laura Love, Assistant Director of DDD, says there is no doubt Kenya will be missed.
”The energy changed in our office. It was great to support the mom and baby, but it was also great to see the dynamics of the office changed having a baby around.”
As Kenya transitions to life after DES, it’s so long for now to this little bundle of joy, a.k.a “Cupcake,” a.k.a “Pumpkin.” We wish you well, little one.
By Vielka Atherton