Madison County’s family and children services won’t suffer under the state government’s guillotine.
Cuts could be as high as 10 percent for all state agencies, but the money funding programs at county’s Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) should be safe for now.
“The decisions that are made are being made to prevent any cuts to direct services,” Madison County DFCS director Lisa Plank said.
The cuts shouldn’t affect Madison County’s field-level workers, either. The goal is to protect employees who work directly with the families from the funding crunch.
“Right now all of the cuts are being made in upper management,” Plank said.
While an eight to 10 percent cuts reduction in budget would prompt tough personnel decisions, Plank said the state DFCS office would probably opt for a hiring freeze instead of layoffs.
And if layoffs do become a reality, departmental administration positions in Atlanta will be the first to go.
“Even in worst case scenario it’s not, hopefully, going to come to laying off workers in actual offices,” Plank said.
Board chairman Gary Locke was pleased to hear that the state was considering the DCFS workers in the trenches before those in Atlanta.
“I’m impressed with the leadership we have in this group — the people-oriented, employee-oriented thinking,” Locke said.
The Madison County office will feel the government ax in some ways though.
Cost of living raises are suspended. There will be a 90-day moratorium on ordering supplies (so the board went ahead and approved $1,600 for those expenses). And Plank will be furloughed one day of the month. She won’t work or receive pay that day. “They said, absolutely, you do not do any work,” Plank said.
Conferences have also been canceled. Only travel pertaining to direct care is permitted.
But the key is to maintain the connection with the families.
“Leadership is really thinking about how this is going to impact our staff and how it’s going to impact our families that we work with,” Plank said.
Plank noted that it’s been a good couple of years for DFCS statewide. The budget issues are just a sign of the times, she said, and not from struggles within the department.
“This budget situation has nothing to do with the work that we’ve done,” Plank said. “It has nothing to do with our performance. It is … the economy is poor. State revenues are poor.”