Cheylynda Barnard says her experience on the job and as a candidate for office have taught her the same thing — that union members must keep advocating for the forgotten in our society.
Barnard has served in the Adult Protective Services Division of Riverside County for six years, where she investigates allegations of abuse and neglect against seniors.
“We work to protect the elderly in our community,” Barnard said. “Obviously, we’re on the lookout for physical abuse, but we also investigate financial abuse — like people trying to scam elders out of their savings — and other issues, like food insecurity.”
Barnard says the pandemic has raised the stakes for her work because so many seniors are homebound and forgotten.
“I had a case recently where an elderly woman had lost her caregiver because of COVID and didn’t have any food for a week, but was too embarrassed to call anybody,” Barnard said.
“After neighbors said they hadn’t seen her for days, I went to investigate,” Barnard said. “She was very proud, but I got her talking about the brands of coffee and ice cream that she likes and offered to go buy her groceries.”
Barnard says Adult Protective Service workers have found increased hunger and food insecurity among senior clients during the pandemic and often pay for groceries out of their own pockets.
“Our social workers are on the front lines in the pandemic, protecting all of these people who risk falling through the cracks,” she said.
“I feel like I’m advocating not just for the clients we serve, but also for the workers who serve them, because the County often forgets us, too!”
Barnard says that she and her coworkers made a show of making masks out of hair ties and cloth when Riverside County refused to provide masks to frontline social workers. She says these types of struggles are part of what drove her recently to run for a seat on the Moreno Valley City Council. Though she narrowly lost, she said she enjoyed the experience and learned a lot.
“I took on some entrenched interests,” Barnard said. “And I still got pretty close.”
Barnard raised just $5,000 for her run — compared with the $60,000 spent by her main opponent, who was heavily backed by local real estate developers — and still only lost by just 400 votes. She said the experience just made her more determined to get money out of politics and keep working on community issues.
“Everything I’ve learned on the job and in local politics has convinced me that SEIU 721 members need to keep fighting and keep speaking out for all of the people who’ve been forgotten in our society.”