By Kristin Fox
This year, the Jackson County Department of Social Services (DSS) has been experiencing an unprecedented rate of providing residential foster care services for children in custody who cannot be placed in other provider care services. From January through May, Jackson County DSS has provided 75 days of foster care services, at times causing an undue burden as many DSS employees are having to spend nights and weekends with these children in addition to their regular work week.
At their recent regular session meeting, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners voted to do something to assist with this burden by unanimously approving a temporary stipend policy for DSS employees. The stipend policy will allow DSS workers to be compensated for their time in providing foster care services.
The stipend policy is an attempt to try to provide some additional pay above and beyond comp time to those employees who are having to spend nights and weekends with these children.
“We have had a consistent issue and problem with finding placement for children who are in DSS custody,” said Jackson County Manager Don Adams. “At the end of the day when they are in DSS custody, it is the responsibility of the DSS director and employees to provide care to those children until placement can be found.”
Jackson County will pay staff assigned to provide residential foster care services beyond the normal work schedule a stipend payment. The stipend payment will be paid per assigned shift in addition to the accrual of compensatory time up to 240 hours. Shift assignments for which the stipend will be paid are Monday through Friday 5:00 p.m. – 12:30 a.m. $75 stipend and 12:30 a.m. — 8:00 a.m. $90 stipend. During weekends, (Saturday and Sunday) and holidays, staff will be compensated with a higher stipend of $120 per shift of 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.; 4:00 p.m. to Midnight; and Midnight to 8:00 a.m. Adams also pointed out that while DSS staff are at work, they are still watching the children during the regular Monday through Friday work week.
In the event of emergencies and to address burnout, the stipend policy is worded to compensate other county employees who are interested in providing residential foster care services beyond the normal work schedule.
“The wording of the policy would allow us to open this up to county employees if we ever chose to, because at some point if this situation consistently continues to occur, there is going to be burnout with the DSS staff,” said Adams.
Adams suggested creating a list of potential county employees that may be interested in helping to provide foster care services, especially in emergencies and special circumstances, as well as an application process. He stated that while a social worker will need to be with the children in foster care, there are situations where a child needs two adults and other county staff could be the extra adult. Adams also stated the wording of the policy allows for prorated pay for employees that work half shifts.
The stipend policy went into effect the day after the meeting. With the county currently having children in custody, the county manager wanted to start compensating the DSS workers for their time as soon as possible.
The stipend policy is intended to be temporary. If and/or when the unprecedented rate of directly providing foster care services declines, it is the intention of Jackson County to end this temporary stipend policy.
Jackson County included two social workers in the 2023-2024 budget which commissioners are hoping will also help with the current DSS situation.