Robeson County DSS trying to adjust to new NC requirements

By: David Bradley - Staff writer

LUMBERTON — The Robeson County Department of Social Services may have to hire more people in order to meet new state child welfare check standards.

The department’s board of directors learned Tuesday that every building on the property where a welfare check is being conducted must be inspected. In the past DSS personnel were required to inspect only the child’s home.

“These are changes across the board,” said Connie Oxendine, a county DSS services program administrator. “There is a major modification to the manual in response to the reviews by the state. It will improve clarity, welfare, and guidance, improve navigation with new protocols, smaller sections and bullet points.

“Changes in inspections are going to be labor intensive, and will need more staff to complete,” Oxendine said.

“The state says we will have to check the whole property, including bodies of water,” Oxendine said. “Barns and other structures are included in this. The points of this are safety and impact concerns.”

Case loads are increasing because of the addition of areas to inspect for each staff member, Oxendine said. Meetings between staff and supervisors have to take place twice a month to discuss each case, and they have to document the event.

“We don’t have the time to do this,” Oxendine said. “To do this we need more workers and supervisors. Each week we spend one or two days in court, which means there is less time to do the work. We have to look at caseloads and bring on more staff. We have to see each child with each visit. This adds more time to the workload for each staffer.”

The DSS board members also learned Tuesday that personnel performance evaluations haven’t been conducted since 2013, but changes are expected in July.

Board member Berlester Campbell, a county commissioner member, wanted to know why.

“I want to see them. It shouldn’t have taken so long for evaluations,” he said. “I know they’re working out some kinks with forms. They want the agency to work more smoothly.”

Leslie Fuller, personnel director, also is working on the exit performance evaluation tool. When an employee is leaving, the evaluation would list reasons for leaving, describe the employee’s work quality, and detail other relevant information.

“We don’t always have information on the past for our files,” Fuller said. “How did this employee do? If they didn’t work out their (two-week) notice. What were the circumstances regarding that action?”

Once the exit evaluation tool in use, an employee’s final evaluation will be on file, she said. The plan is to have the new forms ready by Jan. 1.

Sandra Cox, a program manager with Food and Nutrition Staff/Work First/Energy and Transportation, reviewed her department’s goals and work guidelines.

Food and Nutrition staff work to ensure the general health and well-being of their clients.

“We’re working to raise nutrition in low-income homes,” she said. “We’re funded by the United States Department of Agriculture. North Carolina must meet a 95 percent timeliness rate for the USDA per week. We’ve met that rate for all but four weeks.”

The DSS board members also heard Tuesday that $678,901 in Crisis Intervention Program energy assistance money had been paid out as of Friday. Funding for the program began July 1 and will continue until the end of the fiscal year, June 30, or until the money runs out. The program’s funding balance stands at $321,472.93.

David Bradley

Staff writer

Reach David Bradley at 910416-5182 or [email protected]

Reach David Bradley at 910416-5182 or [email protected]