When Kay Love began her career in social work, she was the youngest among her colleagues. Now, 50 years later, she’s said to be the wisest.
After a half-century in state government, Love was honored for her dedication and service in a ceremony at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services offices Friday.
“Children are so vulnerable,” Love said. “They will drive you crazy with all the stuff they do, but they really are quite vulnerable, particularly in unstable families,” she said. “I like the sense that I am out there pitching for those kids, trying to help.”
Love said she also enjoys the research, writing and problem-solving that come along with the job.
She was born in Houston in 1941 and moved to Lufkin with her family after her father died in World War II.
“I’m East Texas to the bone,” she said.
Love added that she never considered college when she was growing up until she told her mom one day that she was going to get married. Her mother said, “No, you’re not; you’re going to college.”
She came to Austin to study art history at the University of Texas, from which she graduated in 1963. Then she went to work at the Austin State Hospital as a social worker.
“It’s not that I wanted to be a social worker; I went down and took tests for state agencies, and that’s the one I got,” she said.
Love received her master’s degree from UT in 1967 and went back to Houston, where she worked at Texas Children’s Hospital and the Child Guidance Center until she was offered a job at CPS in 1970 as a caseworker.
A month after getting hired, she was promoted to supervisor of foster care.
In 1974, Love found herself back in Austin to develop the first Social Services Handbook. From this, she was offered a job at the state level as a program specialist.
Now, Love is one of the most highly regarded minds in establishing the systems and policies CPS uses today.
“You’re a guru and a legend,” one of her colleagues told her at the ceremony, adding that Love is filled with incomparable institutional knowledge.
Love has had her hand in almost every stage of CPS’ growth and policymaking in the past few decades, and she has no intention of leaving soon.
“She keeps coming back,” said Lori Conerly, a colleague of Love’s. “Like we’re celebrating 50 (years) today, but she’ll be back on Monday.”
Love said she attempted to retire in 2002 but found herself rehired and right back at work not long after.
“It’s really hard to quit 50 years of habit,” Love said. “I’ve worked 50 years, and I’m not finding it easy to turn loose.”
When she is not spending her day working on the CPS automated system that documents cases or flipping through binders full of research, Love said, she enjoys gardening, reading and petting her neighbors’ cats.
Love also has a fascination with rocks. Her husband, Ken Lucas, said she would lift everything from a national park and take it home if she could.
The ceremony highlighted her passion for rocks when everyone wore rings whose flashing LED lights looked like gems in every color.
Lucas said he admires the way Love found her calling in social work, adding that something like that is difficult to discover in this world.
When Love reflected on her long career, she said all she feels is fortunate.
“It’s been a good ride,” Love said. “It’s been fun; I’ve enjoyed it.”
LOVE’S LEGACY AT CPS
Some of the major projects Kay Love had led or worked on include:
- Setting up mandatory reporting to law enforcement.
- Developing the child abuse and neglect reporting system in 1974.
- Creating and implementing the state’s program to assess abuse and neglect reports.