Fresno Co. Board of Supervisors appoints new director for the Dept. of Social Services

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- New leadership is coming to the Fresno County Department of Social Services.

"Thank you for this opportunity. I'm really looking forward to it and I'm glad to be back home," said Sanja Bugay.

The Fresno County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to appoint Bugay as the new Director of the Fresno County Department of Social Services.

Bugay has been the Director of the Human Services Agency in Kings County since 2015.

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Prior to her role in the South Valley, Bugay worked at the Fresno County DSS for 15 years.

For her last three years in Fresno County, she served as Deputy Director.

Multiple supervisors shared Bugay came highly recommended.

"You have vision -- you're a visionary, you want to push and get the best results for Fresno County," said Fresno County Supervisor Steve Brandau.

Bugay will relieve interim director Maria Aguirre, who stepped in just weeks after former Director Delfino Neira left.

Neira faced criticism in the months prior to his departure over conditions for kids in the care of the agency.

Social workers called out the county for having children waiting for a foster family sleep on yoga mats, on top of desks and on the floor in offices.

RELATED: Fresno social workers call for change as children sleep on floors, desks while waiting for a home

Since then, the county created a temporary shelter in offices at the old University Medical Center while they waited for construction to be completed on the new child welfare services building in Clovis.

That facility was expected to be completed in November and was later pushed back.

It's now expected to open later this month.

Bugay says it was some of those recent challenges that made her want to join the team.

"There's ways I can help and there's a lot of things that I can learn from staffing and figure out how do we partner," said Bugay.

Bugay says she's hopeful about the department's future as COVID restrictions lift and lawmakers pass new legislation.

"I'm really looking forward to using some of these state and federal legislative opportunities as funding that's coming down and then sitting together with both our community partners and fellow department heads and DSS staff to figure out what are our next steps to improve services in our community," said Bugay.

RELATED: Fresno County social workers speak out at Supervisors meeting, director of Social Services responds

The Board of Supervisors thanked the interim director, Maria Aguirre, for her efforts while they looked for a permanent replacement.

Bugay will take over as director on April 25.
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