County Comment: Commissioners Hear Social Services Report

County Comment
Commissioners Hear Social Services Report
by Norman Bassett
Washington County Public Information Officer

In its regular meeting on March 27th, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners heard Dave Engle, Director of the Washington County Department of Social Services (DSS) present an overview of County funded DSS programs.
As part of the Fiscal Year 2008 budget decision-making process, Engle recommended that the Commissioners fund the Department's budget request in full, and said that over the years the County Commissioners have funded DSS programs that meet human service needs of County residents for which no state or federal funding exists.
Engle and DSS staff presented a video giving details of 5 programs receiving County support.
Adult Foster Care provides a moderately supervised assisted living situation with the support and security of a family setting. Currently twenty-five homes are certified. 76 adults with disabilities or aged adults received some level of these services in FY '06, Adult Foster Care was created over twenty years ago to provide a safety net for these County residents.
The Commissioners have paid rent for the Washington County Family Center since 1995 The Family Center provided services to 128 adults and 75 children in FY '06, and participation at the Family Center is open to any County resident with a child four years of age or younger. Parents may complete their high school education at the Center while their children receive on-site child care and also receive employment counseling and parenting education. In 1999 Family Center staff partnered with the Board of Education (BOE) to enable teen mothers to complete their high school education at there. The Board agreed to fund the salary of a child care worker necessary to meet staffing requirements for the additional children of these teen mothers. The Washington County Family Center is one of twenty in operation statewide.
Engle said that ten years ago the Commissioners began funding for one School Family Liaison Worker. Later, County funding was expanded to pay for one and one-half positions. Another one and one-half Liaison positions are funded by the Washington County Board of Education (BOE). The program was created by DSS and BOE to provide early intervention services to elementary school children who had poor attendance, poor grades or behavior problems. Families are provided an in-home social worker who helps the family use community resources to address the child's problems before they become too severe. In FY '06, three Liaisons served 112 families and 281 children.
In FY '06 the County began paying the salary of the Safe Place, Child Advocacy Center Program Manager. The Child Advocacy Center served 935 physically and sexually abused children during that fiscal year. At the Center, law enforcement, State's Attorney, physicians and therapists work together to reduce trauma to innocent child victims. The Program Manager oversees the multi-disciplinary team, coordinates special training and writes grants to pay for the majority of the programs' costs.
Although no County funds are involved, the County Commuter has operated the Job Opportunity Bus Shuttle (JOBS) for DSS since 2000. The JOBS Shuttle helps welfare clients overcome a major barrier to employment and transportation in their quest to gain employment. The Shuttle picks clients and their children up at their homes, makes the trips to the children's day care providers and takes the parents to work. At the end of the workday, the Shuttle reverses the route. The Shuttles transport over 40 adults and their children each month. The program is paid by federal funds that flow through DSS.
The DSS budget request to the County for the coming fiscal year is $285,128.00. The Board of County Commissioners is in the process of hearing budget requests from all agencies, organizations and departments under its purview, evaluating need and the ability to meet the requests.
The total county budget for the coming fiscal year addresses Education, Public Safety, Public Works and General Government Operations, and is projected to be just over $195 million.