With the economic downturn, social service organizations across the state are feeling the strain of increased calls for help coupled with decreased funding for staff.
And Madison County’s Department of Family and Children’s Services is not immune to that pressure. County DFCS director Lisa Plank noted that food stamp and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cases have increased dramatically over the past couple of years.
“Since last July, it’s been over a 20 percent increase,” she said. “And if we go back two years, it’s closer to a 50 percent increase.”
Plank said her staff has worked hard to help struggling local families. But the state government’s revenue shortfall has led to reduced budgets for social services. And DFCS staff members have faced their own financial setbacks this year, as furloughs have cut into their pay, even as their caseloads have increased. There’s also been a hiring freeze at DFCS.
“As folks have left, we’ve not been able to rehire,” said Plank. “We’ve had a 20 percent increase in caseload and we’re down staff positions. So, it’s been a push from both sides with more cases and fewer people to do the work.”
The local DFCS director said the tough economic times take a toll on social service workers.
“My folks are troopers and they are holding up, but it’s hard,” said Plank. “It’s hard to interview people. It’s hard to have thousands of cases and still be able to maintain your personal morale and still be able to be a support to families coming in asking for help.”
Plank said many of the people asking for help these days have never asked for help before.
“They’re at the end of the rope,” she said of families in need. “And it’s very emotional for them. It’s very stressful for them. And my workers, who interview people all day long, are hearing these stories over and over again. And they’re trying to be supportive and help this family get the services they need, but it does take an emotional toll.”
While the economic pinch on DFCS has been severe this year, Plank said her office used fewer county funds in the first six months of this year than anticipated. DFCS relies primarily on state and federal funding to cover the cost of services.
“Through the first six months of this year we should be at 50 percent (of budgeted county funds) and we’ve spent only 27 percent,” she said.
Plank offered that encouraging news to DFCS board members Friday morning during a brief meeting.
Also of note Friday, Sheila Collins was named the DFCS board chairman, while Ann Stone will serve as vice chairman.
If all would let people pay for peachcare for kids
But no you got to have a income 1,830.00 so when a
Family member offer to help no they have to put
them on medicaid.Them all want to complain about
your so call work load even if you apply you good
die before you get them.
08/05/09 at 09:37 AM
Sometimes education enables understanding. I think in these economic tough times it is a blessing that people even have somewhere to turn and people dedicated to helping those in need. God bless you DFCS workers and all those you help. We know you can only do so much and the state systems are what holds people up from getting what they need as quickly as they may need it. You all do your best and it is appreciated.