|2007-10-04 Articles |
|DSS Board on Verge
of Tears at Meeting|
|October 04, 2007|
At its Wednesday, Sept. 26 meeting, the Guilford County Board of Social Services heard an uplifting presentation from Melissa Fourrier, the executive director of Foster Friends of North Carolina Inc. – and a few of the social services board members and staff assembled in the county's Human Services Building on Maple Street seemed on the verge of tears as she spoke.
A point of emphasis for the county this year has been its foster children and, at the meeting, Fourrier spoke on some of the things her organization has been doing to help enrich the lives of those children.
The nonprofit's stated mission is to help give foster children some of the life experiences other children get to have but that children in foster care often do not. For instance, the group has provided funds for foster kids to join soccer teams or other athletic teams or to take dance classes. Fourrier said that these can be "life-changing experiences" for the children. In providing those opportunities to kids, the Greensboro-based non-profit works closely with the county's Department of Social Services (DSS).
Fourrier said that, when non-profits fail, they tend to do so between their third and fifth year of existence, and she said she was happy to report that Foster Friends – now in its third year – is stronger than ever.
She said her organization had recently brought area foster children together for a back-to-school party and said that Foster Friends staff, DSS workers and the children had played a game called "Are you smarter than your social workers?"
"The kids won," she said.
Fourrier said the children won iPods and other prizes and she added that every child in attendance left with a prize and a backpack full of school supplies.
She read a thank you letter from a foster child, Brandon, who wrote it after a grant from Foster Friends made it possible for him to attend the NC School of the Arts. The teenager wrote in moving terms of his experience at the school and about the significance of it to his life.
When Fourrier finished her talk, Board of Social Services Chairman Rev. William Wright Jr. said it was "a very powerful presentation," and added that her organization did "fine work."
"This is really touching," he said.
Thanks to DSS workers, foster parents in Guilford County also got shown some love on Saturday, Sept. 29. That's when, according to Guilford County Social Services Director Robert Williams, the department held an appreciation day for the county's foster parents. He said it was important for DSS to maintain good relations with the foster parents.
"A large portion of our adoptions come from foster parents," he said.
Williams added that the county needs to make foster parents "feel an integral part of DSS."
Not all of the meeting was uplifting news about foster care – some of it dealt with the challenges currently facing DSS. Williams said he and others in the department had met with state Sen. Kay Hagan, and that she had asked about the tribulations facing the department.
Williams said Hagan was told it would be helpful to DSS if the state legislators were, when they passed legislation, more conscious of the impact of those laws and regulations on county social workers. Williams said actions at the state level often increase demands on DSS staff while failing to provide any funding or support to help deal with that additional demand.
At the Sept. 26 meeting, Williams spoke of the progress in the county's programs meant to provide job skills to the unemployed and to help them find work.
He said one point of emphasis for Guilford County's social services was to help people – not to just get jobs – but to get jobs that pay well. Williams said that, if a DSS client finds a job paying $6 an hour, that person will often decide it is simply not rational to give up social services benefits to work at that job. He said the department is exploring ways to "help these people get higher paying jobs."
In statistical information provided to the board, the number of Medicaid recipients in Guilford County jumped from 55,678 in July, to 56,428 in August, after staying relatively flat for four months. Also, the number of households in the county receiving food stamps went from 21,093 in July to 21,592 in August, and the number of adult guardianship cases in Guilford County went up only slightly from 138 to 142.