February 25, 2015
David Norwood sat in the hospital waiting room, comforting the parents of a young man he had been counseling. Their son had been shot. Norwood, off the clock, didn’t have to be there. But he came to support the parents of the young man he had come to know.

Norwood recalls the young man’s struggles and being proud of the progress his young client had made.

“He successfully completed treatment and the case closed. He and his family were doing really well,” Norwood recalls. “A month after the case closing he relapsed.”

The young man had been with a group of friends under the influence. One of his friends brought a gun. “They didn’t think it was loaded... and they were playing with it.”  The gun went off, shooting the young man.

“The hardest thing was sitting [with the young man’s parents], not knowing if their child was going to make it or not,” Norwood explains. A nurse came into the waiting room to inform the parents their son wasn’t going to survive. He’ll never forget the mother’s cries when the life support was pulled.

Though the death was heart-wrenching and traumatic for the family, Norwood and his team at Multnomah County Juvenile Services, saw what Norwood would describe as a “silver lining.” The young man’s girlfriend was pregnant with his child. The family was able to take solace in helping his girlfriend through her pregnancy and care for the child.

“It’s exciting to watch,” Norwood says about the ups and downs of his job. “But it’s also heartbreaking at times.”

Norwood is a mental health counselor for the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice Juvenile Services Division. He works to help young people and families who have undergone severe trauma. Many of his patients have gone down dangerous paths, paths that Norwood is familiar with.

He draws on his personal experience and his extensive knowledge of psychology and social work to help young people under supervision get on the right track. As a young man, growing up in Campbell, C.A. Norwood’s family, like most, went through good times and bad times. Luckily, they remained close. Norwood attributes this to his mother, who instilled strong family values and was protective.

“I’m very fortunate to have a good mother,” he says.

High school was a struggle for Norwood, where there was a strong gang and drug influence. Norwood was a target for one of the local gangs.

“I’d get beat down and beat down,” Norwood recalls. It got to the point where he felt like he couldn’t turn a corner without running into one of the gang members.

Norwood found help navigating this hard time by attending youth group at his Methodist church and taking martial arts classes. Both had a strong influence on helping him stay on the right track.

“I got tired of being beat up,” he says. “At the youth ministry I could...understand the whole concept of compassion and forgiveness.”

By his junior and senior year, high school became easier. Norwood was able to defend himself with the skills he learned in martial arts, and the determination to remain focused he gained in Youth Ministries helped.

When it came time to head off to college, Norwood chose San Jose State University where he majored in psychology and got a degree in clinical counseling. “I started taking some psychology classes and...I loved it,” he says. The interest married well with his desire to help young people. The desire to become a probation officer had him finish his minor in administrative justice.

After graduation, Norwood was Northwest-bound and landed a job at DCJ’s Juvenile Services Division. There, he worked with young people under supervision battling drug, alcohol and mental health issues. His motivation to help others overcome addictions didn’t stop there. While working as a custody services specialist, Norwood successfully pursued a Masters degree in Social Work.

In 2000, he began to work towards getting his license from the Oregon Board of Licensed Clinical Social Workers. It took him three years of supervision-completed hours to get the license. During that time he worked as a juvenile court counselor. By 2004 he was promoted to a mental health consultant position.

Now in the job that allows him to do what he loves, Norwood frequently goes beyond his duties in the office to connect with the families he works with. In one incident, a young man he was helping loved football. Norwood encouraged the young man to join a team, and even went to several games to cheer him on.

“I still think that’s the core of our work: that you’re building relationships with people,” he says. It’s an idea that he applies to his work every day. In fact, he believes this personalized approach and the teamwork among his colleagues is what gives their department a 60-80 percent success rate with the young people who utilize their services, compared to the national average of 26 percent.

“He would focus on his families and shut out the stuff that’s going on around him,” says his coworker, Carin Cunningham. “He’s very dedicated.”

“There are a lot of saints walking around here,” Norwood says of his coworkers. “We are all very dedicated in some very tough cases.”

When he’s off the clock, Norwood enjoys spending time with his family. He and his wife, Anne have been married for 23 years and have two children. He and his 19-year-old-son are part of a Jeep Club, where he teaches other members of the club how to drive over various terrains. He and his son plan on building a Jeep from the ground up soon.

“That’s going to be fun,” Norwood says. “I’ve learned how to weld, the wrenching, and I know the engineering of the Jeep.”

Moving forward, Norwood plans on continuing the work he’s doing.

“I get a kick out of seeing people succeed and do well,” he says. Norwood focuses on helping his patients get to a place where they want to be.

“Nobody likes to be in pain, nobody likes to fail,” he explains. Part of what gives him perspective amidst the stories of trauma is what he learned in Youth Ministries.

“Just think, what if you were there? If your kids were in the system, how would you want them to treat your kids and you